Texas judge rules education budget cuts unconstitutional

[JURIST] A judge for a Travis County Civil Court in Texas ruled Thursday that the Texas Legislature [official websites] failed to meet its constitutional duty to provide for Texas public schools [judgement, PDF] because the school finance system is structured, operated, and funded so that it cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texas schoolchildren. Article VII [text, PDF] of Texas's Constitution provides that it is the duty of the Texas Legislature to establish and provide for the support and maintenance of a system of free public schools. In 2011, the Texas Legislature opted to cut USD $5.3 billion from the public education budget to compensate for tax cuts made in 2006. In 2013, Judge John Dietz [official profile] ruled that the cut made the Texas education system financially and quantitatively inefficient [judgment, PDF], and was thus unconstitutional. In response, the Texas Legislature reinstated approximately USD $3.5 billion in education funding later that year. In this most recent ruling by Judge Dietz, the court found that even with the USD $3.5 billion infusion into the education system, it was still under-funded, overextended and unfairly distributed, resulting in gaps in educational testing scores between poor and rich Texas students. The court gave the Texas Legislature until July 1, 2015, to cure the constitutional deficiencies in Texas's education system.

In recent years, legislation surrounding education and teachers has generated controversy in the US. Earlier this month, education advocacy groups in New York challenged the state's teacher tenure laws [JURIST report], claiming that laws protecting teacher employment violate the civil rights of children to a quality education. In June, a judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled that the California's system for tenure and seniority for public school teachers is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. In March, the Supreme Court of Kansas held that the state's legislature violated the Kansas constitution when it underfunded K-12 public education [JURIST report] during the 2009 through 2012 school years.

 

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