Craft urged the court to dismiss the
school districts’ adequacy claims, arguing
that the wrong standard was used to evaluate
evidence at the trial court level. He argued
that adequacy claims must be evaluated on
the results of the system (outputs), not on levels of funding (inputs). Justice Phil Johnson
responded by referring to current test results
that show lower overall test performance
levels compared with data from a decade ago.
Craft responded that the plaintiffs reported
final Level II State of Texas Assessments of
Academic Readiness (STAAR) results in characterizing the current system, when, in fact,
the Level II standards are going to be phased
in and are not required at this time.
Craft added that new curriculum and
related STAAR tests are a “quantum leap” in
terms of challenge and difficulty, thus it will
take additional time to phase in. Justice Paul
W. Green remarked that the performance
results look “bleak” and wondered how the
court can project performance in the future.
He noted that the court is being asked to determine if the system is adequate, and the record “shows that it is not.” Craft, speaking for
the state, disagreed that funding is inadequate
if it is considered under the proper standard.
Justice Eva Guzman asked about changing
demographics of public schools and how this
affects performance. Craft noted improvement in graduation rates and National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP) scores by minority students in Texas. Justice Guzman then asked about the use of formula weights that were
developed 30 years ago. She wondered how these weights
can be appropriate today. Craft responded that the Supreme
Court did not find them unsuitable 10 years ago in West
Orange-Cove and should take the same position in this case.
Craft also spoke to the state property tax issue, arguing
that the tax system does not deprive school districts of meaningful discretion. In response to a question about whether
the $1.04 M&O tax rate is effectively a state-imposed tax rate
cap (because going beyond $1.04 requires a ratification election), Craft said the state does not control the rate through
the $1.04 rate. In fact, he argued, it is the opposite of state
control because it gives local control to the voters for the
remaining 13 cents of taxation above $1.04.
Klusmann argued that the education system is efficient
and that the charter school claims should be denied. Justice
Guzman asked Klusmann what the court should conclude
about funding if the outputs (student performance) don’t rise
to the level of the general diffusion of knowledge. Klusmann
responded that the court does not need to draw any conclusion about present levels of funding. The solution may or
Referencing a comment
by former Lieutenant
Governor Bill Ratliff,
“We can’t make bricks
without straw.” He urged
the court to uphold the
district court’s ruling.