School Finance Litigation and Charter Schools: Next Steps
What's the latest?
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
- 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.
- No facilities funding for open-enrollment charter schools results in unconstitutionally inequitable and inadequate levels of funding for students attending charter schools; and
- 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.
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
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
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?"
The San Antonio Business Journal, September 18, 2014
Morgan Smith, "In School Finance Battle, Legal Fees Accumulate."
The Texas Tribune, September 8, 2014
Morgan Smith, "Judge Orders Texas to Pay Fees for Districts in Finance Case."
The New York Times, September 6, 2014
Lauren McGaughy, "In wake of judge's ruling, uncertainty prevails over school funding."
Houston Chronicle, August 30, 2014
Editorial Board, "Stop dithering and fund schools properly."
Austin American-Statesman, August 29, 2014
Ryan Kocian, "Texas School Property Tax Is Unconstitutional."
Courthouse News Service, August 29, 2014
AP & Krystina Martinez, "Judge Declares Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional."
KERA News, August 28, 2014
"Reaction on Texas school finance ruling."
The Brownsville Herald, August 28, 2014
Alex Boyer, "Texas School Funding Rules Unconstitutional."
KEYE TV, August 29, 2014
"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"
Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2014
"Latest school finance ruling is familiar."
Star-Telegram, August 28, 2014
Enrique Rangel, "Judge: Texas school funding still unconstitutional."
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 29, 2014
"Area officials encouraged by school finance ruling."
Midland Reporter-Telegram, August 28, 2014
Chuck Lindell, "Judge: Texas school finance system unconstitutional."
Austin American-Statesman, August 28, 2014
Alexa Garcia-Ditta, "JUDGE RULES TEXAS SCHOOL FINANCE SYSTEM UNCONSTITUTIONAL. AGAIN."
San Antonio Current. August 28, 2014
Terrence Stutz, "Judge overturns Texas school finance system; discounts fixes by Legislature."
Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2014
Lauren McGaughy, "Judge rules school finance system unconstitutional."
Houston Chronicle, August 28, 2014
Will Weissert, "Texas school funding still unconstitutional."
The Associated Press, August, 28, 2014
"A timeline of Texas school finance court battles."
The Associated Press, August 28, 2014
Morgan Smith, "Judge: Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional."
The Texas Tribune, August 28, 2014
Enrique Rangel, "Ruling in Texas school funding lawsuit may come down Thursday."
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 28, 2014
Chuck Lindell, "Judge John Dietz can stay on school-finance case, judge rules."
Austin American Statesman, June 23, 2014
Terrence Stutz , "State attempt to oust school finance case judge rejected."
Dallas Morning News, June 23, 2014
Will Weissert, "Colleague mulls removing school finance judge."
The Associated Press, June 20, 2014.
Will Weissert, "Plaintiffs rest in phase 2 of school finance trial."
The Associated Press, February 4, 2014.
David Dunn, Mike Feinberg, "Charter school inequality?"
Houston Chronicle, February 3, 2014.
Bennie Wilson, "Better solutions available on school financing."
San Antonio Express-News, February 2, 2014.
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."
New Hampshire News, January 7, 2014.
Ryan Poppe. "School Districts And State Heading Back To Court In January Over School Finance."
Texas Public Radio, December 26, 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."
KUT News. February 4, 2013.
Jonathan Tilove. "Dietz Rules: You want higher achievement, pay for it."
Austin American-Statesman. January 30, 2013.
Will Weissert. "Testimony ends in lawsuit over Texas school funding."
Associated Press. January 30, 2013.
Maria Luisa Cesar. "Charter schools weigh in at lawsuit trial."
San Antonio Express-News. January 29, 2013.
Kate Alexander. "Charter schools say their smaller share of state aid is unconstitutional."
Austin American-Statesman. January 28, 2013.
Paul J. Weber. "TEXAS LEGISLATURE: Education chief: Court puts funding talks on hold."
Associated Press. January 23, 2013.
Will Weissert. "Court case likely to delay major education reforms by Texas Legislature."
Associated Press. December 31, 2012.
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. October 31, 2012.
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.
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.
February 4, 2014: David Dunn and Toni Templeton TRANSCRIPT
Live tweeting from @EquityCenter, January 21, 2014
January 29, 2013 TRANSCRIPT
January 30, 2013 TRANSCRIPT
February 4, 2013 DIETZ RULING FROM THE BENCH
Texas Charter Schools Association
Judge Dietz, 2013 RULING
Judge Dietz, 2014 JUDGMENT
Judge Dietz, 2014 FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Calhoun County ISD, 2013
Fort Bend Independent School District, 2013
Vice President of Operations & Growth
YES Prep Public Schools
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
Andrews Kurth, LLP
2013 WITNESS PRESENTATION