Education Law

'Ignorance costs,' judge says in ruling Texas' school finance system unconstitutional

After nearly 30 years of litigation over the financing of public schools in Texas, a state-court judge in Austin has decided that the state legislature has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately fund an “efficient system of public free schools.”

Siding with some 650 school districts that brought the suit, District Judge John Dietz also held Monday that disparities in the funding of wealthy and poor districts violate the state constitution, too, according to the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Education costs money, but ignorance costs more money,” Dietz said. “It is the people of Texas who must set the standards, make sacrifices and give direction to their leaders about what kind of education system they want. The longer we wait, the worse it gets. The time to speak is now.”

Ruling from the bench immediately after the conclusion of a six-week trial, Dietz said he will provide a written opinion within a month or so. There are more than 1,000 school districts in the state, and his ruling is expected to increase pressure to begin work now to enhance school funding even though an appeal of his decision is expected.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams issued a written statement saying the case is far from finished.

“Today’s bench ruling is simply one step on this litigation’s path,” he wrote. “All sides have known that, regardless of the outcome at the district level, final resolution will not come until this case reaches the Texas Supreme Court.”

The Austin American-Statesman and Reuters also have stories.

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