BURNET — Although the latest legal challenge to Texas public school finance began unfolding Oct. 22 in state District Judge John Dietz’s Austin courtroom, the outcome will be felt far and wide — including in Burnet and Marble Falls schools.
The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District is actually a party to the lawsuit, which involves more than 500 Texas public school districts challenging the state’s so-called "Robin Hood" law that takes taxes from property-wealthy districts and turns them over to poorer districts. The Legislature approved the measure after the landmark 1984 Kirby v. Edgewood ISD decision sought to create an equalized education for all, and school districts and the state have been fighting ever since, with school districts claiming the collection amounts to an illegal state property tax.
"We really have to fix our school finance system," BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said. "It shouldn’t matter what your address is. Every child deserves a good education."
History of Texas School-Finance Litigation
Rodgriguez vs. San Antonio Independent School District. A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court claimed theTexas school-finance system was unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court in 1973 ruled that the Texas school finance system didn’t violate the U.S. Constitution and was a state issue.
Edgewood ISD vs. Kirby. The Edgewood ISD filed the initial lawsuit against then-Texas Education Commissioner William Kirby alleging the school finance system discriminates against poor districts.
The Texas Supreme Court rules in favor of Edgewood ISD and orders Legislature to develop an equitable system by the 1990-1991 school year.
The Texas Supreme Court again finds school finance system unconstitutional, even after Legislature attempts to correct it following Edgewood ISD vs. Kirby lawsuit.
Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD vs. Edgewood ISD (Edgewood III). Texas Supreme Court determines new school finance system is basically an unconstitutional state property tax.
Edgewood IV through Edgewood VI take place. Eventually, state legislatures reduce local property taxes by creating another revenue source. But as property wealthy districts see more local taxes funneled away, grumbling continues.
State District Judge John Dietz of the 250th District Civil Court in Austin rolls five different lawsuits challenging the school finance system into one. He begins hearing arguments Oct. 22 in his courtroom.