All Public School Students Lose with Texas Supreme Court Ruling

All Public School Students Lose with Texas Supreme Court Ruling

May 13, 2016

Christine Isett

Austin – After nearly four years and three trials, the long anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of the state’s school finance system leaves school funding at the discretion of state lawmakers and does nothing to alleviate the disparity in funding for public charter school students. Despite the fact that charter school students receive on average $1000 less than students in traditional public schools, the high court ruled the state’s school finance system is essentially sound and it does not direct lawmakers to specifically change the way charter schools are funded.

“I’m dumbfounded and disappointed in the Texas Supreme Court ruling. This is a setback for the more than 227,000 students enrolled in public charter schools today and provides no hope for the nearly 130,000 students on waiting lists to attend one, said Texas Charter Schools Association Executive Director David Dunn. “Now we turn our attention to Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick who must act on their pledge to fairly fund public charter schools.”

Five charter school families filed a suit in Travis County in 2012. The charter school claims were ultimately included in the larger school finance lawsuit filed by traditional school districts. State district court judge John Dietz found the overall public school system to be unconstitutional, but rejected the charter school efficiency claims. The high court disagreed with most of his findings, but also chose not to side with public charter schools.

“This doesn’t seem right,” said Sarah Christensen, a parent of two Harmony charter school students.  “We chose the best fit public charter schools for our children, but it’s not OK for them to lose vital funding because we made this choice.”

As the case made its way through the courts, the state’s data made it clear that charter school students receive on average $1000 less primarily because charter schools receive no state facilities funding and cannot levy local taxes. “There is nothing less equitable than zero,” said Dunn. “We will fight even harder now. Last session thousands of charter school parents and supporters rallied at the Texas Capitol and heard our state leaders commit to fund charter school facilities. It’s time to deliver for our students.”

Highlights from the Ruling:

  • The high court ignored the $1000 per student gap for charter school students, and found the difference in state funding between traditional and charter schools not large enough to violate the constitution.
  • The court wrongly identifies public charter schools as “for-profit,” despite twenty one years of state law clearly establishing them as part of the public schools system.
  • Alarmingly, the court misstated current law regarding public charter school teacher professional requirements. Teachers and principals must have a bachelor’s degree, and all special education and bilingual teachers must be certified.

“The court today failed all the schoolchildren of Texas, and every student – including those at a public charter school – deserve better,” said Dunn.