Edgewood ISD Plaintiff Group
Attorney Marisa Bono argued for the Edgewood ISD
plaintiff group, addressing the lack of efficiency and lack of
adequate educational resources for economically disadvantaged (ED) and English language learner (ELL) students.
Bono noted that the state has not updated the formula
weights for compensatory education and bilingual education;
it has not quantified the cost to educate low-income and ELL
students to new state standards; and it slashed funding when
standards were rising for all students.
Bono recapped statistics showing tax rate gaps, tax yield
gaps, revenue gaps, and performance gaps that put ED and
ELL students at a disadvantage in the current system. She
asked the court to uphold the district court’s ruling.
Texas Taxpayers and Student Fairness Coalition
Attorney Richard Gray III argued for the Texas Taxpayers
and Student Fairness Coalition, focusing on financial efficiency. He reported that the Edgewood IV (1994) resource gap was
$600 between the low-wealth and high-wealth districts. That
gap has grown to $3,436 between the 15 percent of districts
with the lowest property value per student and the 15 percent
of districts with the highest property value per student.
In Edgewood IV, the amount to achieve constitutional
requirements was estimated to be $3,500 per student.
Adjusted for inflation, that amount rose to $6,576 in 2012.
Today, only a few hundred of the more than 1,000 Texas
school districts can reach $6,576 per student at a $1.17 tax
rate. The rest of the districts simply cannot reach that level
of financial sufficiency (adequacy) at any permissible tax rate
under the current finance system.
Gray reported that low-wealth school districts (the bottom
15 percent) tax 9. 6 cents more and get $3,072 per student less
than high-wealth districts (the top 15 percent). Gray asked,
“How can a system be suitable when it pits rich and poor districts against each other?” He argued that the current system
is not efficient; however, if the state insists on maintaining
the system, it should fund it so that all districts can offer the
general diffusion of knowledge at permissible tax rates.
Justice Willett remarked that it is hard to believe that if
the state “started with a blank sheet of paper today that they
[legislators] would create anything resembling . . . the complex Rube Goldberg contraption that we have, which seems
to lurch from one lawsuit to another, with Band-Aid upon
Band-Aid, on top of Post-Its, on top of paper clips.”
Each of the three appellants made final remarks. Returning to the podium, Craft, arguing for the state, made brief
comments about efficiency, required state studies, and
phasing in standards that can be used to evaluate the system.
Craft asked, rhetorically, how the courts could determine if
new legislative changes cure constitutional violations when
the ink is not dry on that legislation?
Justice Guzman asked who, then, does have the bur-
den of determining if funding is sufficient, to which Craft
responded that it is “nobody’s burden.” Funding (inputs) is
not the standard that should be evaluated, Craft said, adding
that “the accreditation system points to the fact that schools
are providing a general diffusion of knowledge. The system is
not so deficient that it is constitutionally inadequate.”
Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht said, “It seems to me that
the state’s position leaves Article VII, Section 1, unenforceable.
It’s a dead letter.” Craft said for the state, “We don’t agree with
that.” Craft added that the state says there could be evidence of
a constitutional violation if the system is bad, but that’s not the
record here. In closing, he asked the court to dismiss the case
for lack of jurisdiction or remand it to the trial court.