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Judge reaffirms Texas' 'Robin Hood' system of school funding unconstitutional

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 8:15 p.m.

AUSTIN — A judge declared Texas' school finance system unconstitutional for a second time on Thursday, finding that even though the Legislature pumped an extra $3 billion-plus into classrooms last summer, the state still fails to provide adequate funding or distribute it fairly among wealthy and poor areas.

State District Judge John Dietz's written ruling reaffirms a verbal decision he issued in February 2013. He found then that the state's so-called “Robin Hood” funding formula fails to meet the Texas Constitution's requirements for a fair and efficient system that provides a “general diffusion of knowledge.”

Dietz's final, 21-page opinion took the extra step of blocking Texas from using portions of its system to pay for schools — but put that order on hold until July. That gives the Legislature, which reconvenes in January, an opportunity to “cure the constitutional deficiencies,” the ruling says.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office, which had argued that the system was flawed but nonetheless constitutional, said that the state “will appeal and will defend this law, just as it defends all laws enacted by the Legislature when they are challenged in court.” That means the case is likely headed to the Texas Supreme Court.

If the high court upholds the Dietz decision, it will be up to state lawmakers to design a new funding method. Still, all appeals may not conclude until well after the 2015 legislative session is over.

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