More local schools join lawsuit against the state - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |


More local schools join lawsuit against the state


by Bruce Gietzen


by Bruce Gietzen

CENTRAL TEXAS - A coalition of more than 180 school districts across the state - including 22 from Central Texas - has filed a lawsuit against Texas' public school finance system.

The schools claim the way the state decides how much money they get is unconstitutional because it doesn't treat taxpayers and students fairly.  They say the formula adopted in 2006 called "Target Revenue" resulted in giving property-wealthy districts illegally getting greater access to educational dollars.

The group wants lawmakers to change the system, and give similar sized and populated districts similar funding.  The coalition believes districts had to raise their property taxes to the current cap to make up for budget cuts from the legislature.  Those same districts will suffer from not being able to raise revenue when more cuts happen next year.

As an example, the lawsuit cites taxpayer Randy Pittenger, who owns property in Belton I.S.D. and is named as a plaintiff in the suit.  Belton's M & O tax rate is $1.17, which raises $5,947 per student for the district based on weighted average daily attendance, or WADA.

On the other hand, a similar taxpayer in a similar Central Texas district, Glen Rose I.S.D., has a smaller tax rate of $.825, but gets $8,895 per WADA. 

So Pittenger pays 42 percent higher taxes but Glen Rose receives 50 percent more revenue per WADA.

The Texas Education Agency and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs are among the defendants named in the lawsuit.  Governor Rick Perry is not named.

The Central Texas school districts participating in the lawsuit include Bartlett, Belton, Rogers and Temple I.S.D.'s in Bell County, Rosebud-Lott I.S.D. in Falls County, and Wortham I.S.D. in Freestone County.  Also, Aquilla, Covington, Hillsboro and Whitney I.S.D.'s in Hill County, Lampasas I.S.D., Coolidge I.S.D. in Limestone County, and Axtell, Bruceville-Eddy, La Vega, Lorena and Robinson I.S.D.'s in McLennan County.

Milano and Thorndale I.S.D.'s from Milam County and Hearne I.S.D. in Robertson County also joined the group comprising the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition.

Tuesday afternoon, members of another group called the Texas School Coalition said its members plan to file a separate lawsuit claiming the current funding system is inadequate and school districts lack meaningful local discretion.

That coalition includes Contributing School Districts, otherwise known as Chapter 41 districts in the Texas Education Code. 

They are some of the richer districts who have to give more money to the state to help fund less fortunate schools.  This school year those districts will pump $1.12 Billion in locally generated tax revenue into the state system, and they do not want their ratio of giving to increase.

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