Texas Supreme Court finds school finance system constitutionalThe Texas Supreme Court ended years of lawsuits between over two-thirds of Texas school districts—including Cy-Fair ISD—and the state when it declared the school funding process constitutional May 13.

Justice Don Willett delivered the unanimous opinion and validated the “recapture” or “Robin Hood” system in which property-rich districts are mandated by law to send a portion of their property tax revenue to the state to be redistributed among districts deemed property-poor.

“Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement,” Willett wrote. “But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements. Accordingly, we decline to usurp legislative authority by issuing reform diktats from on high, supplanting lawmakers’ policy wisdom with our own.”

Multiple lawsuits have been ongoing since 2011, when the Legislature cut public education funding by $5.4 billion. Budget challenges for CFISD can be traced back to when House Bill 1 passed in 2006, freezing revenue targets for all districts at 2005-06 amounts.

This presented a problem for fast-growing districts like CFISD, which has added over 27,000 students in the past 10 years, according to the 2015-16 CFISD State of the District.

In 2013, Judge John Dietz ruled the existing school finance system unconstitutional. In January 2014, he reopened the case after the state pumped $3 billion more into public education funding, but Dietz delivered the same ruling. The state appealed the decision, which resulted in the decision given May 13.

“The Supreme Court’s decision ends years of wasteful litigation by correctly recognizing that courts do not have the authority to micromanage the state’s school finance system,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Abbott served as attorney general during the filing of these cases.

“Gov. Abbott said the Texas Supreme Court ruling was a victory for Texas taxpayers and the Texas Constitution,” said Stuart Snow, associate superintendent for business and financial services at CFISD. “I have to ask: Where do the 5 million Texas school children fit into his assessment of the ruling?”

The Legislature could potentially address the issue when the 85th legislative session opens in January 2017. There is no requirement to change any element of the funding formula.

“The Supreme Court recognizes the many significant failings of the current school finance system; and in its ruling the Court calls for transformational, top-to-bottom reforms of the system,” Snow said. “As I see it, the Texas Legislature is at a crossroads. The Legislature has a choice to make regarding the manner in which it funds public education. It can either take the road of complacency or the road of transformation. In any case, our 5 million school children are looking to our lawmakers to stand up for them.”