Houston ISD can sell bonds to pay for facilities; how about charter schools?

The trustees of Houston ISD recently approved a $1.9 billion bond proposal for school facility improvements; voters will have a chance to decide in November. If successful, it will result in a $0.07 property tax increase. “Will HISD trustees approve the bond plan? Undecided”, Ericka Mellon, K-12 Zone blog (Houston Chronicle), August 8, 2012; “Live blog: HISD board to vote on $1.9B bond”, Ericka Mellon, K-12 Zone blog (Houston Chronicle), August 9, 2012.

David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association, notes that charter schools have no such power to raise money for facilities. “Texas school facilities funding leaves some kids behind”, David Dunn, Houston Chronicle, August 15, 2012. His group has filed a school finance lawsuit asking, among other things, that the court find that the Texas constitution requires the legislature to provide open enrollment charter schools with facility funding. Update: More about facilities funding here.

What else is new with the school finance litigation?

The cases are set for trial in late October, with a decision expected within six months, according to a Plano ISD official. “School finance lawsuit moves forward”, Bill Conrad, Star Local News, August 10, 2012. (Plano ISD is a “rich” district for Robin Hood purposes.) It’s expected that the charter schools’ lawsuit will be tried at the same time as the others, but there is no ruling on that yet, according to the charter schools’ law firm.

Judge John Dietz expects to issue a ruling before the end of the 2013 legislative session. However, the case is likely to be appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court decision probably won’t come until 2014. That means the 2015 legislature will be the one to respond. “School finance trial could spill into January”, Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman, July 11, 2012.

In late August, Judge Dietz will hear three days of presentations on how the school finance system works. He warned, “I will have to take attention breaks. I have developed judicial attention deficit disorder . . . . Even Star Wars gets old after a couple of hours.” “The school-finance silver lining”, Peggy Fikac, Texas Politics blog (San Antonio Express-News), July 11, 2012.

In the meantime, approximately 56,000 students in Texas are on waiting lists to attend charter schools, according to Dunn.

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