School Finance Litigation and Charter Schools: Next Steps

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Friday, September 26, 2014: The State of Texas filed its Notice of Appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

September 8, 2014: The Charter School Plaintiffs filed their objections to the Trial Court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. In it, the Charter School Plaintiffs also requested additional and amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Judge Dietz has ten days to respond to the filing presented by the Charter School Plaintiffs. 

August 28, 2014
: Judge Dietz issued his written rulings after nearly two years of trial. The judgment can be found here, and the judge’s findings of fact and conclusions of law can be found here. TCSA’s statement on the rulings: “We agree wholeheartedly with the judge’s findings on adequacy. However, the judge got it wrong on specific charter claims, and it’s now time for the Texas Supreme Court to get it right,” said David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA). “Public charter schools have answered the call from parents for more quality education choices and innovative options, but we know that parents aren’t willingly choosing to walk away from needed funds for their students. It’s unfair to provide the option and not provide the means. The evidence was plain during trial: charter school students receive $1,000 less than district students on average each year. This disparity creates constitutional harm that Judge Dietz failed to recognize despite the use of the state’s own data to prove this point.” 


  History of Texas charter school finance litigation

  • June 26, 2012: Charter School lawsuit filed by charter school parents and the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA)

  • August 2012: The Charter School lawsuit was consolidated into the larger Texas school finance-focused lawsuit, making the parents' and TCSA's suit the sixth out of the six lawsuits filed.

  • January 28-30, 2013: Charter School evidence presented and witnesses testified in District Court.

  • February 4, 2013: Judge Dietz orally announced his rulings after a 45-day trial.
    • Ruled in favor of the four traditional district plaintiff groups, finding that the state funding system is unconstitutional, as it is inefficient, unsuitable and inadequate.
    • Ruled against the claims made by the efficiency interveners (TREE), and stated that the claims were policy decisions to be made by the Legislature.
    • Ruled against the charter school parent and TCSA claims, and said that "It is within the Legislature's discretion to fund charter schools differently. Any funding disparities created by that system do not rise to the level of unconstitutionality."

  • June 19, 2013: Judge Dietz determined to reopen evidence so that the court can hear about the impact of certain legislation on the school districts' and charter schools' claims. Some of the legislation the judge may take into consideration includes, but is not limited to: SB 1, SB 2, SB 758, HB 5, and HB 1025.

  • November 26, 2013:  The Supreme Court of Texas denied the Motion to Stay (filed by the Intervenors on Nov 20, 2013) and the Petitions for Mandamus (filed by the Intervenors on November 20, 2013 and by the State of Texas on November 22, 2013). The Intervenors had argued that the school districts’ legal claims were mooted by the funding increases and accountability changes made by the 83rd Legislature. Similarly, the State of Texas argued that the charter schools’ legal claims were moot also. The charter schools responded on November 26, 2013, urging that its legal claims against the State of Texas remain viable and are similar to, yet also distinct from the claims raised by the school districts. By denying the Petitions for Mandamus, the Supreme Court of Texas preserves subject matter jurisdiction of the school finance trial in Judge Dietz’s court.
  • January 21, 2014: Texas Public Charter Schools returned to Judge Dietz’s court in school finance litigation round two.  TCSA and charter parents’ attorneys presented evidence along with the four school district plaintiff groups and the intervenors (TREE).  The second phase of the trial concluded on Friday, February 7, 2014 with closing arguments from the parties, including by charter school attorney Leonard
    Schwartz
    .
  • From January 21st to February 7th, 2014:  Judge Dietz conducted a second phase of the school finance trial to hear evidence about whether the actions of the 83rd Legislature impacted his prior ruling in the case. All of the parties, including the charter schools, put on new evidence. David Dunn (TCSA Executive Director) and Toni Templeton (TCSA Data Analyst) explained that the collective impact of the actions of the 83rd Legislative was to worsen the financial position of open-enrollment charter schools. Judge Dietz indicates that he’ll issue a new ruling in Spring 2014. After that, the case is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Texas.
  • June 2, 2014: The Office of the Attorney General filed a motion on behalf of the State of Texas to recuse Judge Dietz, calling into question his impartiality in the school finance trial.  In the motion to recuse, the State claims that Judge Dietz has conducted improper ex parte communications with the school district plaintiffs and as such, he must be recused from further hearing or trial of the case because his impartiality can be reasonably called into question. Judge David Peeples, the presiding judge of the 4th Administrative Judicial Region is expected to hold a hearing in Austin on the motion to recuse in the next few weeks. 
  • June 23, 2014: Judge David Peeples issued an order denying the motion on behalf of the State of Texas to recuse Judge Dietz. In the order, Judge Peeples found that Judge Dietz thought the ex parte procedure, including some discussion back and forth with prevailing parties, was done with the knowledge and acquiescence of all the parties, and emphatically rejected any suggestion that Judge Dietz intentionally or knowingly engaged in ex parte discussions without the consent of the parties. Judge Peeples also denied the State’s request to modify Judge Dietz’s rulings concerning the sealing of documents in the underlying case and denied the State’s request for discovery from Judge Dietz on the motion to recuse.    

Charter School Claims:
Read the full petition.

The charter school plaintiffs requested protection for children's constitutional rights as it relates to sufficient funding for open-enrollment charter schools and a lifting of the arbitrary cap on charters imposed by the Legislature.  

  1. No facilities funding for open-enrollment charter schools results in unconstitutionally inequitable and inadequate levels of funding for students attending charter schools; and
  2. The arbitrary cap of 305 (by 2019) on open-enrollment charter school holders presents an arbitrary obstacle to the State's ability to achieve constitutional efficiency and stymies the very efficiency charter schools were intended to promote

Nothing is more inequitable than zero.

  • Public charter schools have existed in Texas education since 1995 with no facilities funding from the state. Further, charter schools do not receive individualized adjustments for school and student characteristics like school districts receive.  
  • Parents in charter schools exercised the options given by the state and chose the right school for their children to be successful. They did not choose less funding for their student.

The cap on charter schools is arbitrary especially with a waiting list of students across the state.

  • As tax-payers, Texans object to the arbitrary cap on charter schools. The Texas Constitution expressly requires that the educational system be efficient.
  • There is a waiting list of more than 100,000 students whose parents want to exercise options and cannot.

 

Press Releases

August 28, 2014
Denied Again: Judge Dietz denies charter school students constitutional protections in latest ruling

February 7, 2014
Getting it Right: Charter School Closing Arguments Make the Case

January 21, 2014
Public charter schools return to court in school finance litigation

June 20, 2013

Charter school students wait for constitutional protections as school finance trial continues

February 4, 2013
Charter school students denied constitutional protections in school finance ruling

October 22, 2012
First Time Charter Schools Considered in Texas School Finance Trial
Need for Facilities Funding and Lifting the Arbitrary Cap

June 26, 2012
Texas Lawsuit Filed in Support of Efficient and Adequate Provisions for Charter School Students
Parents and taxpayers petition for constitutional rights for Texas charter school students



 

Trial Summaries

February 4, 2013: District Court's Ruling

January 30, 2013: Trial Day 3

January 29, 2013: Trial Day 2

January 28, 2013: Trial Day 1

Related News

Tessa Duvall, "‘School Finance 101’ addresses future of state funding."
Midland Reporter-Telegram, October 4, 2014

James Aldridge, "How will the latest Texas school finance system debate affect your business?"
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Morgan Smith, "In School Finance Battle, Legal Fees Accumulate."
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Morgan Smith, "Judge Orders Texas to Pay Fees for Districts in Finance Case."
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Lauren McGaughy, "In wake of judge's ruling, uncertainty prevails over school funding."
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Editorial Board, "Stop dithering and fund schools properly."
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Ryan Kocian, "Texas School Property Tax Is Unconstitutional."
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AP & Krystina Martinez, "Judge Declares Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional."
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"Reaction on Texas school finance ruling."
The Brownsville Herald, August 28, 2014

Alex Boyer, "Texas School Funding Rules Unconstitutional."
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"Extra Public School Funding May Come From Taxpayers."
CBS DFW, August, 28, 2014

Matthew Haag, "Supt. Mike Miles applauds judge’s ruling to overturn Texas school finance system"
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"Latest school finance ruling is familiar."
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Enrique Rangel, "Judge: Texas school funding still unconstitutional."
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"Area officials encouraged by school finance ruling."
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Chuck Lindell, "Judge: Texas school finance system unconstitutional."
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Alexa Garcia-Ditta, "JUDGE RULES TEXAS SCHOOL FINANCE SYSTEM UNCONSTITUTIONAL. AGAIN."
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Terrence Stutz, "Judge overturns Texas school finance system; discounts fixes by Legislature."
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Lauren McGaughy, "Judge rules school finance system unconstitutional."
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Will Weissert, "Texas school funding still unconstitutional."
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"A timeline of Texas school finance court battles."
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Morgan Smith, "Judge: Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional."
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Enrique Rangel, "Ruling in Texas school funding lawsuit may come down Thursday."
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Chuck Lindell, "Judge John Dietz can stay on school-finance case, judge rules."
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Terrence Stutz , "State attempt to oust school finance case judge rejected."
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Will Weissert, "Colleague mulls removing school finance judge."
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Will Weissert, "Plaintiffs rest in phase 2 of school finance trial."
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David Dunn, Mike Feinberg, "Charter school inequality?"
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Bennie Wilson, "Better solutions available on school financing."
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Renee McKenzie. "Idaho's public schools deserve to be funded equally."
Idaho Statesman, February 2, 2014.

Michael Brindley. "Bill Before House Would Boost Funding For N.H.'s Charter Schools."
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Ryan Poppe. "School Districts And State Heading Back To Court In January Over School Finance."
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Mike Norman, "Texas charter schools flexing their muscles."
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Lindsay Kastner. "Judge reopens school finance lawsuit."
San Antonio Express-News. June 19, 2013.

Morgan Smith. "Texas School Finance Trial Goes For Round Two."
The Texas Tribune. June 19, 2013.

Will Weissert."Judge to hear new evidence in school finance case."
Associated Press. June 19, 2013.

Mike Norman. "Austin judge dreams of easy school finance case."
Star-Telegram. June 7, 2013.

Kate Alexander. "Judge could hear new evidence in school finance lawsuit."
Austin American Statesman. June 5, 2013.

Andrew Ujifusa. "Texas School Finance System Violates State Constitution, Judge Says."
Education Week. State Ed Watch. February 5, 2013.

Morgan Smith and Elena Schneider. "Updated: School Finance Ruling Favors Districts."
The Texas Tribune. February 4, 2013.

Kate Alexander. "Judge: School finance system unconstitutional."
Austin American-Statesman. February 4, 2013.

Nathan Bernier. "Charter Schools 'Disappointed' With School Finance Ruling."
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Jonathan Tilove. "Dietz Rules: You want higher achievement, pay for it."
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Will Weissert. "Testimony ends in lawsuit over Texas school funding."
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Maria Luisa Cesar. "Charter schools weigh in at lawsuit trial."
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Kate Alexander. "Charter schools say their smaller share of state aid is unconstitutional."
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Paul J. Weber. "TEXAS LEGISLATURE: Education chief: Court puts funding talks on hold."
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Will Weissert. "Court case likely to delay major education reforms by Texas Legislature."
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Ross Ramsey. "School Finance Lawsuits Provide an Out for Lawmakers."
The Texas Tribune. December 24, 2012.

The Associated Press. "Judge in education lawsuit wonders if Texas is 'satisfied with mediocrity'."
Star-Telegram.com. mom2mom. November 21, 2012

Gary Scharrer. "Equity Center: Some schools get $65,000 more per classroom."
San Antonio Express-News. November 2, 2012.

Karina Kling."Lawmakers weigh in on school finance trial."
YNN Your News Now
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Anonymous, "Charter School Students Join "Efficient & Adequate" Lawsuit".
Texas Insider. On The Record. October 29, 2012.

Morgan Smith. "School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial."
The Texas Tribune. October 22, 2012.

Gary Scharrer. "School financing suit heads to court."
San Antonio Express-News. October 21, 2012.

Janet Elliott. "School funding trial starts today."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram. October 21, 2012.

Kate Alexander. "Rising standards, less funding collide in Texas school finance trial."
Austin American-Statesman. October 20, 2012.

Kate Alexander. "Equity in Texas school funding returns to fore in court."
Austin American-Statesman. October 13, 2012.

Meredith Moriak. "Education funding lawsuit set to go to trial."
Midland Reporter Telegram. August 4, 2012.

Chuck Lindell. "School finance lawsuit could last into January."
Austin American-Statesman. July 11, 2012.

Morgan Smith. "An Updated Guide to Texas School Finance Lawsuits."
The Texas Tribune. July 3, 2012.

Lindsay Kastner. "Charter school group sues state over money."
San Antonio Express-News. June 27, 2012.

Sean Cavanagh . "Texas Charter Schools Next in Line With Funding Lawsuit."
Education Week. Charters and Choice. June 27, 2012.

Morgan Smith. "Charter Schools, Parents to File School-Finance Suit."
The Texas Tribune. June 26, 2012.

Ericka Mellon. "Charter schools sue Texas over funding."
Houston Chronicle. K-12 Zone. June 26, 2012.

Kate Alexander. "Charter advocates sue over funding, cap on schools."
Austin American-Statesman. June 26, 2012.

Patrick Michels . "Texas Charter Schools and Parents Sue for Their Share of School Funding Bounty."
Texas Observer. June 26, 2012.

Leslie Minora. "Texas Charter Schools, Parents Sue State Over Facilities Funding."
Dallas Observer. Edumication News. June 26, 2012.

Transcripts

February 4, 2014: David Dunn and Toni Templeton TRANSCRIPT

Live tweeting from @EquityCenter, January 21, 2014

January 21, 2014: Leonard J. Schwartz, Schulman, Lopez and Hoffer, LLP 

OPENING STATEMENT “As Transcribed”

OPENING STATEMENT "As Prepared"


January 28, 2013 TRANSCRIPT

January 29, 2013 TRANSCRIPT

January 30, 2013 TRANSCRIPT

February 4, 2013 DIETZ RULING FROM THE BENCH

Closing Arguments

 

 Texas Charter Schools Association

CLOSING ARGUMENT, Transcript. February 7, 2014
CLOSING ARGUMENT, Powerpoint. February 7, 2014

Judge Dietz, 2013  COMMENTS

Judge Dietz, 2013  RULING

Judge Dietz, 2014 JUDGMENT

Judge Dietz, 2014 FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Calhoun County ISD, 2013
CLOSING ARGUMENT

Fort Bend Independent School District, 2013
CLOSING ARGUMENT

 

Witness Presentations


Mark DiBella
Vice President of Operations & Growth
YES Prep Public Schools
2013 WITNESS PRESENTATION

David Dunn
Executive Director
Texas Charter Schools Association
2014 WITNESS PRESENTATION
2013 WITNESS PRESENTATION

Denise Nance Pierce
General Counsel and Vice President of Member Services
Texas Charter Schools Association
21013 WITNESS PRESENTATION

Anthony Rolle & Associates
2013 WITNESS PRESENTATION

Thomas Sage
Andrews Kurth, LLP
2013 WITNESS PRESENTATION

James Strohmeyer, Jr, AIA, NCARB
2013 WITNESS PRESENTATION

Toni Templeton
Data Analyst
Texas Charter Schools Association
2014 WITNESS PRESENTATION