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Continuing Reaction To The Texas School Finance Ruling

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Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio
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Texas Matters: Groups and politicians from across the state are all having their say in yesterday's ruling in the Texas school finance case. We hear from a MALDEF attorney, a conservative policy analyst and two legislators on the Senate Committee on Education.

Big issue, big decision

School districts throughout the state are applauding a court ruling that may eventually lead to an overhaul of the way Texas pays for schools.

One of the lead plaintiffs in the case against the state’s education system is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. David Hinojosa is the lead counsel for MALDEF and commented on what we learned from the ruling.

"That the state's public educational school finance system is grossly arbitrary and inadequate, especially for that state's most at-risk and vulnerable children -- those would be economically disadvantaged and ELL students. That the system is inequitable for property-poor districts. So 25 years after the Edgewood decision in 1989 by the Texas Supreme Court holding that the state had failed in its obligation to provide children in poor districts the same opportunities as children in rich districts still rings true today..."

What does ruling mean for school choice?

Different groups see different things in the ruling; some conservatives see the decision as further evidence for more charter schools and vouchers.

Michael Barba is scholar at the Center for Education Freedom at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

"It means more school choice in general. It means parents should be able to choose the school that best meets their child's needs -- regardless of what type of school that is. You mentioned charter schools and that's a good example because that's really the only type of school choice that parents have right now."

What is next for the Legislature?

While the ruling is again a defeat for the Texas public education system, the judge’s decision doesn’t actually change anything in the classroom. There is going to be an appeal to the elected Texas Supreme Court. And if upheld it’s going to be up to the legislature to find the fixes.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is on the Senate Committee on Education.

"The incoming legislative session in January 2015 is the time to act. We don't need another court to tell us  to do our job. We need to make sure to equitably and cooperatively fund our public schools."

Van de Putte is the democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and is running against State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. Patrick released a statement following the ruling:

“As chair of the Senate Education Committee I led the charge to restore most of the education funding cuts from last session. We have spent vast amounts of money towards education and we’re still struggling to see significant improvement. Spending continues to rise steadily while the number of failing schools increases. Today's decision is the sole decision of one judge in Travis County. The final say will come from the Supreme Court. Ultimately, it is the legislature, voted by the people of Texas, who should make these important decisions.”

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi