5. Texans for Real Equity and Efficiency in Education—TREE interveners
contended that the system is qualitatively
inefficient and not productive of results.
Failure to update the cost of education
index, Chapter 21 control, inefficient
provision for home rule districts, charter
school caps, and PEG restrictions were all
presented as inefficient and in violation of
the Texas Constitution. The court declined
to declare these features of the system
unconstitutional. The judge said that the
issues raised reflect policy decisions within
the purview of the Legislature.
6. Texas Charter School Associa-
tion—These interveners contended that the
system violates Article 7, Section 1, of the
Texas Constitution because charter schools
have an alternate method of funding and
they lack state support for facilities funding.
The judge did not accept these arguments.
He said it is within the discretion of the
Legislature to fund charter schools differ-
ently. He noted that the disparities present-
ed during the trial do not render the whole
Highlights of Judge Dietz’s Ruling on Public School Finance
In Texas District Judge John Dietz’s February 4 ruling that the Texas public school finance system is unconstitutional, the
judge offered several narratives to provide insight into his reasoning.
Dietz began with a story about Brownsville, a city in one of the poorest counties in the state. The judge remarked on the
phenomenal performance of young chess players from this area, noting that there are 4,000 students playing chess and
that the district budgeted $400,000 for chess participation. In fact, he added, it is one of the most active centers for chess
in the nation. Inspired by the public schools, an area university offered its first scholarship for excellence in chess. The judge
mentioned that this explosion of interest started because of one dedicated teacher and a knowledge-hungry class of students. Chess throughout the Rio Grande Valley represents a “perfect illustration of the miracle of education,” Dietz said.
Dietz then commented that if he were to ask the 20 million adult Texans not in school about the importance of public
education, they would answer that we should have a rigorous education to be competitive. Texans support tough, higher
standards, he added, saying that he believes the majority of Texans are likely to agree that we need to have the right curriculum, upgraded technology, teacher training, additional teachers with advanced skills in new areas, remediation for
those who need it, and effective evaluation and accountability measures to ensure that we are meeting our goals.
The judge then declared that if he were to tell the 20 million adult Texans not in school that we can do all of this for an additional $10 billion to $11 billion per year ($2,000 per student), suddenly the majority becomes a minority. However, Dietz
commented that there is no free lunch. Texans “either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we
don’t,” Dietz noted. There is a cost to acting—a tax increase; however, there is also a cost to not acting—loss of competitive advantage, Dietz said, noting that both this state and the nation are wrestling with this.
Dietz added, “So, then, why do we have public education? Why is there the famous language in Article 7, Section 1,
of the Texas Constitution?” He read the paragraph and noted three reasons to make suitable provision for support and
maintenance of a system of free public schools. First, there is the civic reason. Education of all is necessary to secure our
rights and liberties. Then there is an altruistic reason for supporting education for 20 percent of the population—we were
provided an opportunity for a free public education, and today’s children deserve the same. Finally, there are economic
reasons for a free public education. It is a fact that the more educated we are the greater our income will be. The greater
our income, the fewer citizens need financial support. Crime rates are lower.
“The more we spend, the more vibrant our economy and the more able we are to attract desirable business to this state,”
he said. Dietz concluded these introductory remarks by saying, “It is the people who must give direction to their leaders
about the standards they want. The longer we wait, the worse the problem becomes.”H