School finance lawsuit appearing before the Texas Supreme Court

The long running school finance lawsuit went back to court Tuesday, this time before the Texas Supreme Court.

The complicated lawsuit before the Texas Supreme Court was filed 3 years ago. Tuesday morning state solicitor general Scott Keller made a simple request. He urged the justices to kick it out of the packed courtroom.

“This is a case about, who gets to decide and who sets education policy in the state. Our argument is simple, it’s the People's Representatives it’s the legislature,” said Keller.

The high court judges spent the morning quizzing attorneys about how to fix the state's education funding system. A Travis Co District Court Judge, last year, ruled it is inadequate and unconstitutional. Lawyers - representing more than 600 school districts and charter schools argued --  the legislature  hasn't  provide enough funding and distributes what money there is - unfairly. Upholding the district court ruling - according to plaintiff attorney Rick Gray - will force state lawmakers to come up with a solution.

"This system is a product of the Legislature they can throw it out and start over or they can tinker with it, they can do anything they want to do with it and that’s their prerogative as long as whatever they do meets constitutional standards,” said Gray.

Attorneys for the state agree the system isn't perfect - but told the justices it meets what’s required by the 1876 Texas constitution.

Earlier this year, during the Regular session there was an attempt to reform the Education Financing System, before this case went before the Justices. A massive plan was drafted and pitched by House Education Committee Chairman Jimmy Don Aycock. But it failed because the Chairman could not get any support in the Senate.

The issue of school funding in Texas has been litigated for the past 3 decades.  Justices were warned without extensive reform the fight will not end here.

"This system is designed  to come to you every 7 years to have you resolve the problem but takes 3 years to litigate, by definition it is not efficient,” Craig Enoch with Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education.

Increasing funding is still a key point for attorneys representing low income districts. It was pointed out- the bottom 15% tax at a higher rate than wealthier districts - but because of economic conditions- the poorer schools get far less per student under the current method.

It’s not known how long it will take for the high court to issue a ruling. Regardless,  the issue will be waiting for lawmakers when they return in 2017.

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