The public schools enroll 5,154,000 students: 52% Latino, 29% White, 13% African American, and 4% Asian, with 60% living in poverty, and 16% learning English. The State spends $8,261 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” Texas Const. art. 7, § 1.
“(b) It shall be the duty of the State Board of Education to set aside a sufficient amount of available funds to provide free text books for the use of children attending the public free schools of this State. (c) Should the taxation herein named be insufficient the deficit may be met by appropriation from the general funds of the State. … (e) The Legislature shall be authorized to pass laws for the assessment and collection of taxes in all school districts…, and the Legislature may authorize an additional ad valorem tax to be levied and collected within all school districts for the further maintenance of public free schools, and for the erection and equipment of school buildings….” Texas Const. art. 7, § 3.
In 1989, in Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby (Edgewood I), the Texas Supreme Court held that the state constitution’s education article requires the school funding system to provide school districts with “substantially equal access to similar revenues per pupil at similar levels of tax effort and provide all districts with substantially equal access to the operations and facilities funding necessary for a general diffusion of knowledge.” The Court found that the State was not meeting this standard.
The Court also ruled that, “Children who live in poor districts and children who live in rich districts must be afforded a substantially equal opportunity…if the state is to educate its populace efficiently and provide for a general diffusion of knowledge statewide,” and “if the Legislature substantially defaulted on its responsibility such that Texas school children were denied access to that education needed to participate fully in the social, economic, and educational opportunities available in Texas, the ‘suitable provision’ clause would be violated.”
In response to the Court’s decisions in Edgewood, the State revised the funding system to make it more fair and adequate.
In 2005, in Neeley v. West Orange-Cove Independent School District, the Texas Supreme Court held that the State’s school funding system did not yet violate the constitutional adequacy, efficiency, and suitability requirements, despite its recognition of glaring funding inequities, substandard facilities, and other educational shortcomings.
In 2011, State funding cuts of $5.4 billion led to Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition (TTSFC) v. Scott, which claimed that the funding system had become inequitable, inadequate, and unconstitutional. Other plaintiff coalitions filed cases, which were consolidated with TTSFC. The trial court found the Texas education finance system unconstitutional. The State appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court, in 2016, gave “extreme” deference to the Legislature and found no constitutional violation.