2006 Special Session on School Finance
Posted August, 2006 - Strides were made in the area of school finance, as our Texas Legislature convened in a special session this spring. Plano ISD has maintained a high profile and level of involvement in the attempt to represent the local community of children and those in the state to bring a more equitable finance plan for all Texas school children.
Posted March 30, 2006 - The Texas State Legislature will conduct a special session on school finance beginning Monday, April 17, 2006. The legislators will have 30 days beginning April 17 to resolve the school finance situation.
The Texas Supreme Court has imposed a June 1, 2006, deadline for legislative action. The Court ruled that the Legislature must provide a funding system that allows local school districts to meet the state’s high educational standards, while leaving local school boards with meaningful discretion over their local property tax rates.
Failure to Find Solution - Since 2003, the Texas Legislature has had two regular sessions and has called three special sessions to try to resolve the school finance situation. Read more about these sessions and Plano ISD's priorities for the Legislature in the links found on this "Advocacy for Change" website, where you can also read about the history of the state's "Robin Hood" system of school finance.
Plano ISD's Legislative Priorities - Dr. Doug Otto, Plano ISD Superintendent of Schools, has been a leading advocate during the past decade for specific priorities regarding the state’s funding of public education. He reports that Plano ISD is seeking the following relief in the upcoming special session:
The Governor’s call should include property tax relief and school finance only.
Consideration of any teacher incentive pay plan should only be addressed after additional salary for all teachers is approved.
Local districts need additional taxing capacity to provide enrichment.
Enrichment funds may be equalized by the state, but the funds should not be subject to recapture.
Additional reports will be posted here, as information becomes available.
Posted November 22, 2005 - In a 7-1 opinion, the Texas Supreme Court today struck down the school finance system, finding that it had evolved into an unconstitutional state property tax. The Court also found that there was substantial evidence that “the public education system has reached the point where continued improvement will not be possible absent significant change.”
The Court gave the Legislature until June 1, 2006, to address the constitutional deficiencies in the system. The full court ruling can be found on the Texas Supreme Court website.
The West Orange-Cove Plaintiffs, the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, hailed the Court’s ruling. Haynes and Boone LLP attorney George W. Bramblett, Jr., co-counsel for the West Orange-Cove Plaintiffs, remarked: “Today is a great day for the State of Texas. The Court’s historic decision will be applauded by educators, teachers, parents and students across the state.
"The Court’s ruling on our state property tax claim means that the Legislature must build financial capacity into the school funding system so that districts can hire quality teachers and provide the type of programming that communities across our state need and expect. And, the Court reaffirmed that the Legislature has a constitutional duty to provide an adequate level of funding for our public educational system and that this duty is enforceable in court,” said Mr. Bramblett.
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP attorney David Thompson, co-counsel for the West Orange-Cove Plaintiffs, continued: “For the past decade, the Legislature has been shifting the responsibility of funding Texas schools onto local districts and onto the local property tax, but the local property tax can no longer bear this heavy burden. The Supreme Court’s decision makes clear that it is time for the Legislature to step up to the plate and pay for the high academic standards it has imposed on districts and students.”
Currently, more than two-thirds of school districts in Texas – which educate more than 80% of the students in the state – are taxing at or very near the maximum tax rate. The Supreme Court concluded that these districts lacked “meaningful discretion” to reduce their tax rates without jeopardizing their ability to provide a constitutionally adequate education. While the Court concluded that the system is “adequate” now, it reserved the right to revisit the issue in the future. In doing so, the Court rejected the State’s claim that the adequacy of the educational system is a “political question” not subject to judicial review.
The Legislature has failed to address the looming school finance crisis on multiple occasions, including its 2003 regular session, a 2004 special session, the 2005 regular session, and two special sessions called by Governor Perry this summer.
“The Legislature’s focus has been on simply trading property taxes for consumer taxes, without adding any real new money into the school system. And they could not even accomplish that meager goal. We hope that the Legislature will heed the Supreme Court’s call and adopt ‘big picture’ reforms that will place the Texas public school finance system on firm financial footing for years to come,” remarked Haynes and Boone LLP attorney Mark Trachtenberg, co-counsel for the West Orange-Cove Plaintiffs.
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