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Who Wins From School Funding Lawsuits?

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

One of the most frustrating and contentious issues in Texas that never gets resolved is the way we fund our public schools.

Property rich, property poor and school districts in the middle all complain that the system doesn't work fairly.     Taxpayers feel the same way.

So many people are sick of it that hundreds of school districts across the state filed lawsuits and are now in court in Austin to try and figure it out.

The trial is expected to go several months. Judge John Dietz will be hearing from attorneys representing hundreds of Texas school districts. Their argument? The way the state funds public education isn't adequate, equitable or efficient. Those are the basic premises for the various lawsuits.

Peggy Venable is the Texas Director of Americans for Prosperity, a group that watches out for the taxpayer. Venable says to expect legal fees to run in the millions for this trial.

Venable told me, "The competition was really among the attorneys to see who could get the most school districts in their lawsuit because the attorneys are really going to be the winners here. The school districts may get more money but the attorneys will make a lot of money off this and taxpayers will end up paying both."

Whatever the judge decides, it's expected the lawsuit will be appealed all the way to the Texas Supreme Court and then bounced back to the Texas legislature to work out a plan. That could be many months away.

"Right now we see this as a lawsuit not for the kids but education bureaucracy and for the attorneys. We want to say, we want to make sure more of those dollars are spent on instruction and for the kids and that's why we've weighed in," Venable told KEYE TV.

The lawsuit also presents a new challenge.  Venable says taxpayers are challenging the efficiency in how education dollars are spent which is required by the state constitution.

As proof the system is unfair, school districts pointed how the legislature cut state funding by nearlyfive and a half billion dollars last year even though enrollment had increased.

An attorney for the state countered that even after the 2011 cuts, districts must still show in court they are spending their money efficiently and not on non-essentials like classroom iPads.

By Ron OliveiraWho Wins From School Funding Lawsuits?



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