A lawsuit being called the "grandaddy" of school finance litigation got underway in state district court Monday.
The trial combines several petitions, including one filed by the Texas School Coalition (TSC), which is comprised of 88 property wealthy school districts, including Glen Rose ISD.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the state's school finance system, and Mark Trachtenberg and John Turner, attorneys with Haynes and Boone, LLP, representing TSC, released a statement after the lawsuit began.
“Today, in opening arguments, we were pleased to present our two primary claims to the court. First, school districts lack the funding they need to meet the state’s own mandates and expectations for schools. Second, our districts have to use their available taxing capacity just to try to meet state requirements, and therefore lack any real control over setting their local tax rates. The result is a de facto state property tax,” Trachtenberg said. "The combination of higher academic standards, growing populations of economically disadvantaged students and significant budget cuts in the last legislative session has led us to where we are today.”
“School districts are supposed to have a meaningful ability to use local tax dollars to supplement the educational programs in their communities. They should not be forced to raise local taxes merely to compensate for funding the state has failed to provide. Districts have lost the meaningful discretion to control their own local property tax rates, in violation of the Texas Constitution,” Turner added.
GRISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan said since the Robin Hood program began, GRISD has contributed more than $550 million in recapture payments to the state.
"Our recapture has doubled in the last six years due to the increase in property values," he said. "The state can't continue to punish property wealthy districts by taking more funding to bring the bottom up."
Thirty-five districts were Chapter 41 schools in 1993 in the current school year, 374 school districts are subject to recapture provisions.
Annual recapture payments are more than $1 billion and the state's fourth highest source of revenue.
The trial is expected to continue through the end of the year, according to Rotan.