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Judge In Texas School Finance Trial Reopens Case

Ryan E. Poppe
TPR News
Travis County District Judge John Dietz (seated in right corner).

Nearly a year ago Travis County District Judge John Dietz ruled that the system used to fund schools in Texas was unconstitutional, but didn’t reduce that order to writing. The same trial is once again underway but this time with different evidence to consider.

Dietz gave the Texas Legislature another chance to replace the $5.4 billion that was cut from public education funding in the 2011 session.

"It has been the consistent desire of this court to present the most up to date data to the Texas Supreme Court for their consideration," Dietz said.

Assistant Attorney General Shelly Dahlberg said the $3.4 billion that lawmakers replaced and the new system for educating students that includes a decrease in standardized tests hasn’t been in place long enough to measure how it affects school finance.

On day one of the trial the attorney general's office filed to exclude the most recent standardized test scores but that motion was denied.

"It’s kind of strange the state wouldn’t want the courts to know how students are doing on the more recent STAAR data and at the same time argue and put the burden on us that there is an ongoing violation," said attorney David Hinojosa with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who represents some of the schools in the lawsuit.

Credit Ryan Poppe / TPR News
TPR News
MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa at the podium.

Hinojosa said looking at the more recent test scores will show how much  money school districts are still spending to get a struggling student back on track even with a new law in place that requires fewer tests.

"We are only halfway through the first year of the implementation and we have absolutely no data points on which to measure the changes," Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said school funding has kept up with student needs especially as it pertains to the number of English language learners entering the Texas school system.

"We’re talking about over one out of every six students is an English language learner," Hinojosa said.

Attorneys from both sides expect the trial will take just over two weeks.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.