The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has won a pivotal court case against the State of Texas regarding inadequate school funding for low-income and English Language Learner (ELL) children.
The ruling stated that “the Texas public school finance system is arbitrary, inequitable and inadequate under the Texas Constitution and [...] low-wealth school districts lack local control over their tax rates,” reported MALDEF in an media statement.
The ruling was handed down by Judge John K. Dietz of Travis County District Court after more than three months of testimony.
“The State has left many Texas children behind by blatantly defying its constitutional duty to fully support their education,” said David Hinojosa, Southwest Regional Counsel for MALDEF, who delivered the closing arguments on behalf of the represented schools and plaintiffs. “Every Texas child should have the opportunity to go to college and this lawsuit will ensure that opportunity.”
MALDEF brought the claims against the State of Texas when recent budget cuts for schools around the state were acknowledged as significantly uneven. Low-income districts had as much as a $1,000 difference per child compared to higher-income schools, and even with the uneven budget Texas residents are paying high rates in school taxes across the board.
Yolanda Canales, a plaintiff and parent of a child in the Pasadena Independent School District, added, “It is simply unfair that we are paying higher tax rates, but our schools continue to suffer. My daughter’s high school does not have enough books so students don’t receive homework. Her classrooms are overcrowded and the teachers are overwhelmed. Something must change and it must change now.”
These issues and the failure of Texas’s English Language Learner program, which offers special options for students with low English-language skills, were the primary objectives of the MALDEF case. In his ruling, Judge Dietz, specifically noted how important ELL students were to Texas, and how the growth of that group indicated more, not less, funding was needed.
“The miracle and promise of education is unlocking the potential of every child as you find them,” he said.
All in all, the Texas school finance system was declared unconstitutional by not providing low-income districts the ability to set their own tax rates. The Court “held in favor of the other school district plaintiffs’ claims as well, on the grounds of equity, adequacy and meaningful discretion. The Court, however, rejected the claims of the Intervenors, including the Texas Association of Business, which argued that other parts of the educational system, such as the lack of teacher merit pay, were the cause of the failures in the system,” stated MALDEF’s press release.
Originally published on VOXXI as MALDEF wins texas school funding court case