TX district judge rules school financing system unconstitutional, superintendents react

By: Victoria Maranan Email
By: Victoria Maranan Email

SHERMAN, TX-After three months, a Texas district judge has ruled in favor of over 600 school districts and said the state's current public school financing system is unconstitutional.

Right now, Texas relies on local property taxes to fund schools--the so-called "Robin Hood" scheme enacted in 1993 -- required schools with more resources to share with those in poorer districts. Superintendents we spoke to Monday were very supportive of the district judge's ruling, saying it is the first step towards a better, more fair, finance plan.

Angela Latham's children attend Denison schools and said the lack of funding school districts face can jeopardize learning.

"I certainly will support sending more funds to education. I think that's something we can't skimp on, our children's education is so important that's where our future lies," she said.

Monday, district judge, John Dietz ruled the state's school finance system unconstitutional saying it violated the Texas Constitution by not adequately funding schools as required.

Sherman ISD Superintendent, Dr. Al Hambrick, said the ruling is a step closer to better funding.

"I was pleased to hear the ruling. I think our students in Sherman and throughout the state of Texas deserve the best that we can offer them," he said.

Denison ISD Superintendent, Dr. Henry Scott, said change is needed because the current school financing system is faulty.

"The system is broken, it's totally unfair, it's underfunded. There's a lot of issues with it that everyone knew was a major problem," he said.

In 2011, lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from the state's education budget by rewriting the formula used to distribute state money. Sherman ISD lost over $6 million.

"It was certainly a very tight squeeze in a lot of areas and we have to work really hard to look for ways to reduce expenditures," he said.

While Denison funding was also slashed.

"We lost over that period of time, $2 million, in funding and it caused us to make some drastic cuts in programs and load classes up in a lot of situations," said Scott.

Both superintendents are hopeful the ruling will help schools better provide for their students.

"I think with this new ruling, our hope is that the new system, whatever it may be, will provide more opportunities for schools to provide those resources that we know our students and staff need," said Hambrick.

The attorney general's office is expected to appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court. Both Dr. Scott and Dr. Hambrick said they hope the higher court would also make the same ruling.


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