Union Grove superintendent optimistic about school finance ruling
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Feb 10, 2013 | 1425 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Union Grove School Supt. Brian Gray said Tuesday he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Texas Supreme Court will uphold a State District Judge’s ruling Monday agreeing with his school district and hundreds of others that the state’s funding method for schools is unfair and unconstitutional.

Gray told The Mirror that Judge John Dietz “hit the nail on the head” in ruling that the system delivers inadequate funding for schools to perform their job, and that distribution of funds is flawed. The state is expected to appeal the ruling, possibly to the Texas Supreme Court.

Six school districts lying primarily or substantially in Upshur County—Union Grove, Union Hill, Ore City, Spring Hill, Big Sandy and Gladewater were among more than 600 schools which sued the state over its financing. According to an article in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News, Judge Dietz granted most of what the four plaintiff groups of schools wanted, and sided with them on three matters: the amount of funding, the equity of it, and the restrictions on school districts’ taxing ability.

Schools cannot tax more than $1.17 per $100 valuation, a system which Dietz ruled effectively was an unconstitutional statewide property tax. He said having increased standards would mean raising taxes.

“Obviously, we are cautiously excited about the outcome” of the 12-week trial before Dietz, Gray said, calling it a “good first step” for Texas schoolchildren. He said the plaintiffs’ case was “well put together,” showing inefficiency, inequity “and the inadequate funding that we’ve been saddled with.”

Among the suing schools’ arguments was that the state gave some school districts thousands of dollars more per pupil than other districts which had similar property tax rates.

The Dallas Morning News quoted Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as disagreeing with the ruling, and saying he expected an immediate appeal to the state Supreme Court. The report said Dewhurst has stated in the past that schools receive adequate funds.

Gray said he assumed the Texas Legislature would wait to act on school funding until the state Supreme Court rules. He said he expected the Legislature to either meet in special session on the issue, or address it in the next regular session, which would begin in 2015.

Gray said his district spent about $750 to participate in the litigation, which represents about $1 for each student in Union Grove ISD’s average daily attendance.

Big Sandy School Supt. Scott Beene could not be reached for comment Wednesday on the judge’s ruling as his school had dismissed classes early that day due to a power failure.
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