"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parents and Schools Sue Texas and California

From the Education Law Center:
Schools and parents have taken the states of Texas and California to court, accusing them of violating their own state constitutions because they are not providing the basic level of education that the constitutions require.

Both states have slashed school funding, and both have created gaping holes in opportunity for children in many communities by enacting funding systems that favor wealthier school districts.

On Oct. 10, 2011, the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition (TT&SFC) filed TT&SFC v. Scott, in state court. Two weeks earlier, on Sept. 28, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators, and three representative school districts filed CSBA, et al., v. State.

While education in all states is vital, these two states enroll about 20% of U.S. students, enough to impact the whole nation.

Texas Reverses Robin Hood: Take from the Poor, Give to the Rich

The TTSFC petition to the court relies on the earlier Texas cases, Edgewood and West Orange Cove, and alleges that the latest state budget is a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor to give to the rich. Plaintiffs ask the court to declare that the school finance system: violates the "efficiency" and "suitable provision" parts of the Texas Constitution; creates an unconstitutional state tax; and, fails to provide legally required "equal protection" to students in low-wealth districts.

Although the school district plaintiffs vary greatly in size and location, they all allege that they receive inequitable funding under the current state funding system and their taxpayers and school children suffer adverse consequences. For example, the Austin School District has $100 million more to spend than Fort Worth, although the number of students is about the same and local property tax rates are exactly the same, according to the plaintiffs.

The group of more than 150 school districts represented by the coalition continues to grow, and more districts, taxpayers, and parents are expected to formally join in the coming months.

The non-profit Equity Center is facilitating the development and operation of the coalition. This case has been expected since the legislative session ended, and another parallel suit is also anticipated.


California's plaintiffs claim that the 2011-12 state budget violates the state constitution's "Prop 98" provision and the statutes implementing Prop 98 by $2.1 billion, thereby underfunding public schools throughout the state. Voters passed Proposition 98 in 1988, thereby amending the constitution to guarantee California public schools---K-12 and community colleges---a certain minimum level of funding each year. Plaintiffs requested court order would apply to all districts in the state.

At a press conference, Carlos Garcia, superintendent of the San Francisco School District, said his district would use recovered Prop 98 funds to restore reduced school days, counter increased class sizes, and reinstate staff development.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint in California Superior Court against the State of California and the state controller, director of finance, and superintendent of public instruction.

Other States

Parents, students, and school districts have also challenged funding cuts in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Kansas. Others would like to do the same in lots of states.

Court orders in New Jersey and North Carolina ordered those states to restore certain funding, and the Kansas case is preparing for trial. The NC decision is on appeal.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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