By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
Last Wednesday, Belton ISD and the Equity Center held an informational financial meeting and luncheon for districts in the area. During the meeting, the Equity Center briefly summarized and went over the main points of the School Finance Lawsuit.
On the First of September, the Texas Supreme Court heard an appeal in the ongoing School Finance Lawsuit, of which more than 600 districts are plaintiffs in the case, to include Belton ISD. The plaintiffs hold that the state’s system of funding public education is unconstitutional. The State of Texas is appealing a district court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. This is the seventh time in the last quarter-century that the court has been called on to settle a legal challenge over the way Texas funds the education of millions of children.
The districts hold three major arguments against the Texas school financing system to include efficiency, adequacy, and state property tax.
With efficiency, the districts argue that the finance system distributes money to school districts inequitably, where they give some districts thousands of dollars more per student than other districts despite having similar property tax rates.
With adequacy, the districts say that they are not receiving enough money to pay for programs required by the state and to ensure students meet standards set by the Legislature.
As far as state property tax goes, school districts maintain that they lack discretion to raise enough funds because they’ve maxed out what they can tax property owners under state law, making school property taxes a de facto statewide tax, which is unconstitutional.
Other than how and when the Supreme Court will rule, the other big question is whether the decision will require the Legislature to come back to Austin before the legislature’s 2017 general session.