This article, written by Laura Isensee, originally appeared in Houston Public Media on March 17, 2016.
Any day now, the Texas Supreme Court could rule in the largest school finance case in the state’s history.
More than 600 school districts have filed suit, arguing that the system doesn’t provide enough money and doesn’t distribute it fairly.
But there’s another group that wants their day in court: Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education.
They’re asking the Supreme Court to reconsider if school funding is efficient.
“Which the court has defined in the past as productive of results with little waste,” said Kent Grusendorf, one of the group’s leaders. He’s also with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a former state lawmaker. “And this is the first time in 30 years of litigation that this issue has been before the court.”
His group, which includes the Texas Association of Business, argues that school funding is unconstitutional because it’s inefficient and over-regulated. They want it to be more business-like and weed out waste.
The trial judge ruled against them. But they’re part of the appeal to the state Supreme Court and justices there could rule differently.
“I think the evidence is overwhelming that money alone is not the issue. It’s how we use the resources that are available,” Grusendorf said.
Other advocates, however, maintain that there isn’t enough money for schools.
“We’re even seeing property-wealthy districts raise their tax rates,” said Chandra Villanueva, a policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “When Alamo Heights (ISD) feels that they need to hold an election to increase their tax rates to support their schools, you know that every school district in the state must be struggling to make ends meet and to provide a quality education.”
A new national report card backs that up. The Education Law Center grades states on different measures of school funding fairness.
Texas received a D for how it distributes money and an F for funding effort.