School Finance: A Timeline

1854: Texas lawmakers establish system of free ("adequate" and "equitable") Texas public schools, under state constitution.

1973: The U.S. Supreme Court rules (San Antonio ISD v. Rodriguez) that education is not a Constitutionally protected right, meaning that school finance is an issue for states, not federal courts.

1984: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, on behalf of Edgewood ISD, sues the State of Texas, on the grounds that the school funding system violates the Texas Constitution.

1989: After years of appeals, the Texas Supreme Court rules for Edgewood, and instructs the state to reform its finance system.

1990: Lawmakers pass Senate Bill 1, a series of sales, tobacco, and alcohol tax increases to provide more school cash. State District Judge Scott McCown rules the changes unconstitutional.

1993: Lawmakers pass the "Robin Hood" system, limiting ISDs to a maximum $1.50 per $100 of assessed property value for maintenance and operations payments. Richer districts find themselves subject to "recapture" – sending a portion of their property taxes to state coffers, to help finance poorer districts.

2004: In West Orange Cove v. Texas, more than 300 school districts file suit against Texas over equity and adequacy of the school finance system. Judge John Dietz rules for the schools.

2005: Texas Supreme Court upholds Dietz's ruling, because so many districts are setting the maximum $1.50 rate just to cover basic operations, and the 1993 reforms created a de facto, and unconstitutional, statewide property tax. Gov. Rick Perry calls the first in a series of special sessions.

2006: Lawmakers lower the property tax limit, and plan to make up the difference with between an increase in cigarette taxes and a reform of the business margins franchise tax.

2011: With the franchise tax dramatically underperforming, lawmakers cut $4 billion from the school finance budget. With no extra money to cover inflation and increased student population, this leaves a $5.4 billion hole. Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition and other groups file suit against Texas, again citing lack of adequacy and equity.

2013: Dietz issues initial ruling in Texas Taxpayers & Student Fairness Coalition v. Williams, et al., calling the current system unconstitutional, but giving the Legislature time to fix the system before passing his final ruling. Lawmakers restore $3.6 billion to school finance budget – at least $2 billion less than needed.

2014: Dietz's final written ruling is that, even with more cash, the system is still unconstitutional. State files appeal with Texas Supreme Court, still pending.

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