Parents’ Lawsuit Texas
February 25, 2012 by staff
Parents’ Lawsuit Texas, A small group of parents filed the fifth school finance lawsuit against Texas on Friday, this one charging that the state is not getting enough bang for its buck and asking the courts to address inefficiencies in how education funding is spent.
Attorneys submitted the suit to the 200th Judicial District Court in Austin on behalf of five families who say the state’s schools aren’t meeting their children’s needs, as well as Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, a new group formed by three entrepreneurs.
Four other lawsuits already have been filed claiming the school finance plan approved by the state Legislature is not equitable in how it distributes funding to school districts. In all, more than 500 school districts representing more than 3 million children are suing the state as part of that process.
Chris Diamond, lead attorney in the latest litigation, said it may eventually be combined with the other cases. But he said it goes further, asking the courts to look at how money is spent — rather than simply if it is distributed fairly.
“We’re dumping all of this money into the system and yet kids aren’t ready to go to college,” Diamond said.
The Legislature approved $50.8 billion for public education for this year and next, but lawmakers rewrote the school funding formula to cut $4 billion and cut $1.4 billion in grant programs, even though enrollment has been growing.
That caused the amount of money Texas spends per student to fall to $8,908 per pupil, down $538 from last year and well below the current national average of $11,463, according to the National Education Association.
Those cuts prompted the first four lawsuits, but Diamond said the latest has nothing to do with the Legislature’s budget. He said it is about parents who “feel as if their children are trapped in an unproductive system” and that the suit isn’t meant to be political or promote school choice or other conservative causes.
Districts and residents have been suing over school funding in Texas for more than 40 years. Diamond said that in past rulings, the state high court has issued opinions that “all-but invited” a legal challenge to the overall way Texas pays for its schools.
“We’ve been challenging this funding issue, but we need to hear about the basic, fundamental issues in the system,” he said.
Diamond said the idea would be to have the courts force the Legislature’s hand and rule the system unconstitutional so lawmakers would have to overhaul school finance.
One of the new suit’s plaintiffs is Joyce Coleman, a Houston widow and former teacher who has a son in one charter school and a daughter in another. Coleman sent her other daughter, who is 16, to stay with her aunt, where she can attend school in a different district.
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