School Finance Litigation and Charter Schools: Next Steps

What's the latest?

January 9, 2015: The Charter school plaintiffs submitted their appellate filing to the Supreme Court of Texas.

January 6, 2015: The State of Texas filed its Statement of Jurisdiction and Motion for Briefing Schedule to the Supreme Court of Texas. 

October 9, 2014: The Charter school plaintiffs filed their Notice of Appeal with the Texas Supreme Court. 

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
  • 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

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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 



January 28, 2013 TRANSCRIPT

January 29, 2013 TRANSCRIPT

January 30, 2013 TRANSCRIPT


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


Calhoun County ISD, 2013

Fort Bend Independent School District, 2013


Witness Presentations

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

David Dunn
Executive Director
Texas Charter Schools Association

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

Anthony Rolle & Associates

Thomas Sage
Andrews Kurth, LLP

James Strohmeyer, Jr, AIA, NCARB

Toni Templeton
Data Analyst
Texas Charter Schools Association