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Texas school funding is ruled unlawful

Judge gives state year to fix inequity

AUSTIN, Texas -- A judge declared Texas's share-the-wealth system of school financing unconstitutional yesterday and gave the Legislature a year to find a new solution.

The system is nicknamed ''Robin Hood" by some because it takes money from rich schools and gives it to poorer ones. The more than 300 school districts in the lawsuit contended that the system violates the state constitution by failing to provide enough money to give equal education to rich and poor students.

State District Judge John Dietz agreed, saying that the gap between ''the haves and the have-nots" was too wide and that Texas faces dire consequences if it doesn't provide adequate funding to all its students.

''By 2040, we'll have a population that's larger, poorer, less educated, and more needy than today," Dietz said, acknowledging that correcting the educational inequities would require sacrifice. ''Who in Texas would choose this for our future?"

Dietz said he would issue an injunction ordering state funds for public education to cease within a year if the Legislature does not find an adequate solution.

The ruling is expected to be appealed.

The districts, including Dallas and Houston, also argued that the $30 billion system has created an unconstitutional statewide property tax. Nearly two-thirds of the state's education budget comes from property taxes, but a cap on local property taxes limits the schools' ability to raise money.

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