MALDEF PRESENTS CLOSING ARGUMENT IN CASE DEFENDING RIGHTS OF TEXAS SCHOOL CHILDREN
Despite Texas Legislature's Partial Funding Restoration, Many Property-Poor Districts, Low Income and English Language Learner Children Still Shortchanged
AUSTIN, TX - Today at 2 pm CST, MALDEF will present closing argument before the Travis County District Court in Austin, showing that the Texas public school finance system remains inequitable and inadequate. Last year, Travis County District Court Judge John K. Dietz held that the system was arbitrary, inequitable and inadequate under the Texas Constitution, citing gross inequities for property-poor school districts and failures of the system for low income and English Language Learner (ELL) children.
Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, "The court remains the best hope for ensuring that Texas enjoys a bright future secured through fair and adequate investment in all of the students who will lead and serve the state for decades to come. The Texas Constitution guarantees an educational system that will produce better and more equitable schooling for every child."
More than 600 school districts responsible for educating three-quarters of the State's 5 million-plus public school students joined the lawsuit. After last February's decision by Judge Dietz, lawmakers changed graduation requirements and restored $3.4 billion of the $5.4 billion in funding cut by the 2011 Texas Legislature. Judge Dietz reopened the case to consider the changes and over the last three weeks, MALDEF presented evidence demonstrating that the changes were not enough. Experts in the case testified that the playing field remains unequal, with property-poor school districts having less than approximately $1,000 per student than property rich districts-despite taxing 10-cents higher. Experts also testified that the legislature failed to increase funds for low income and ELL students, who continue to struggle to meet minimum standards on the State's more rigorous STAAR standardized tests.
David Hinojosa, Southwest Regional Counsel for MALDEF, stated, "We said it three weeks ago in opening statements, and we proved it three weeks later: Texas' public school finance system fails its most needy students and school districts in every constitutional sense. Holding all students to the same standards, but providing fewer resources for some, is inherently unjust and unconstitutional."
In the previous suit, Plaintiff districts argued that financial support provided by the Texas Legislature was inadequate and unfairly distributed after lawmakers voted in 2011 to slash public education funding and educational grant programs by $5.4 billion. At the same time, the State raised the curriculum and testing standards. Plaintiffs represented by MALDEF argued that the Texas school finance system increased the inequity for low-wealth school districts to pre-1993 levels, forcing those districts to tax at higher rates but collect less revenue compared to higher-wealth school districts. In addition, Plaintiffs showed that arbitrary and inadequate funding for low income and ELL students, as well as the overall insufficient funding for lower-wealth school districts, had stripped Plaintiff school districts of the power to exercise meaningful local control of their taxes.
MALDEF represents parents of low income and ELL students attending public schools in Pasadena ISD and Amarillo ISD, and the following low-wealth school districts: Edgewood ISD, Harlingen CISD, La Feria ISD, McAllen ISD and San Benito CISD.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.
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