By Lauren McGaughy
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday appealed to the Texas Supreme Court a district court finding that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.
State District Judge John Dietz's Aug. 30 ruling called Texas' current school finance system inefficient and inadequate, saying it created a de facto statewide property tax in violation of state law.
The decision, a reaffirmation of his 2013 ruling, was a victory for the 600 school districts that sued the state after $5.4 billion was stripped from the public education budget in 2011.
Abbott's office could have appealed to a lower appellate court. But it was widely suspected he would expedite the process by requesting the state's highest civil court hear the case.
Lawmakers could avoid further litigation by addressing the system's problems in the session that begins in January, but many agree they will wait for a court ruling to take action.
Education leaders and policymakers expect a special session next year on school finance, since the state Supreme Court is unlikely to hear and decide on the case before the regular session is over in June.
Teacher groups criticized the decision to appeal and asked lawmakers to take immediate action.
"By filing this appeal, Abbott made it very clear that he is willing to make five million Texas students wait another year or more for the resources crucial to their success," said Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria. "We demand that Abbott quit wasting tax dollars and drop an appeal that robs our children of the opportunity guaranteed them by our great state.Legislators should begin working now on a fair and legal school funding plan that can be enacted during next year's session."
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