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.
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.
May 13, 2016: The Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling on the constitutionality of the state’s school finance system. The Texas Supreme Court overturned the trial court’s August decision that the state does not give adequate funding to students, and declared that school funding in its present state was constitutionally sound. The high court rejected all of the charter school claims, finding that the difference in funding between traditional ISDs and public charters was not so arbitrary as to amount to a violation of the Texas Constitution. The decision leaves school funding at the discretion of state lawmakers and does nothing to alleviate the disparity in funding for public charter school students. Read TCSA’s press release here.