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School Finance Back in Dietz's Court

Eight years after Dietz ruled for massive reform, school finance returns

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 27, 2012

Travis County Judge John Dietz
Travis County Judge John Dietz
Photo by Jana Birchum

In 2004, Judge John Dietz's ruling on the Texas' public school finance system lead lawmakers to make massive reforms. Now, eight years later, the replacement system they concocted is in back in his court. On Jan. 19, the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition announced that its challenge to the massive public school funding cuts passed during the 82nd Legislature will be heard before Dietz in the 250th District Court in Austin. Dietz is already hearing three other school finance lawsuits, filed by three different groups of school districts, each of which has been afflicted in different ways by the legislation. The Austin ISD is part of a suit represented by the law firm of Thompson & Horton; along with attorneys for the Texas School Coali­tion (which represents roughly 120 property-wealthy districts including Eanes ISD), they argue that the current system is not equitable, nor does it provide adequate funding as required by the Texas Constitu­tion. The Fairness Coalition (representing nearly 400 mid-to-low-property-wealth districts) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund also make those arguments but also contend that the state has created a de facto and unconstitutional statewide property tax. There's no word whether Dietz will hear these suits separately or jointly.

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