A Change of Circumstances: Judge Reopens School Finance Lawsuit

New legislation could be discussed in court in January

Judge John Dietz
Judge John Dietz (Photo by Jana Birchum)

If you thought it was just redistricting causing never-ending lawsuits in Texas, think again. This morning Judge John Dietz ruled that he will re-open the school finance hearings in January 2014.

In a brief hearing this morning, the state district judge informed all parties in the ongoing case that he will give them until July 17 to present evidence relating to new legislation passed in the 83rd regular session. He then set a new trial date of January 6 of next year, at which point he will allow discussion of pertinent bills.

For those of you that thought this was all settled, you were right. Ish. Dietz heard this case last year, and ruled in favor of the school districts that were challenging the current Robin Hood recapture system. In his initial ruling – which the Texas Public Policy Foundation vice-president Chuck Devore dismissively referred to as a press release – Dietz stated that the current system, and the amount of cash allocated, was unconstitutional on multiple levels. As the Texas Equity Center put it at the time, Dietz ruled that "the Texas school finance system is: 1. Inequitable and inefficient, 2. Inadequate and unsuitable, 3. Statewide de facto property tax."

However, the judge had held back on making a final full ruling until he could see what the legislature did in the session. Will an extra $3.9 billion in the state's contribution to public schools, plus some shifts in how it's distributed soften his opinion? Expect to find out some time in 2014. And then expect the inevitable appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

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83rd Legislature, School Finance, Judge John Dietz

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