A group of low-income school districts across Texas filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state over the way it funds education.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) alleges in the lawsuit that the state's current school finance system is inequitable and puts low-income and English-learning students at a disadvantage.
Edgewood ISD here in San Antonio is one of four Texas school districts that have joined the lawsuit brought by three parents.
David Hinojosa, MALDEF's Southwest Regional Counsel, said at a news conference there is a $1,000 gap between students in low-income schools compared to those in higher income districts.
"Everyone of these kids deserves a chance to go to college if they want to. Everyone deserves a chance to earn scholarships," Hinojosa said.
Under the current school finance system, Hinojosa said Edgewood elementary students don't have the same chance to make it to college as their peers in higher income districts.
In the suit, MALDEF alleges that the state's system of using property taxes as the major source of revenue for schools creates an unfair system. Districts with higher property values are located in higher income areas and generate more revenue for their school's. Districts that are property poor, like Edgewood, generate less revenue creating the gap.
Hinojosa said even if those districts tax property owners at the maximum level of $1.17, there is still a significant gap.
Rather than forcing property-rich districts to tax owners at a lower level, MALDEF believes the answer is for the state to make up the difference. Hinojosa said the state has a variety of options to help level the playing field.
"Don't be fooled by the cuts they've been putting in, they have substantial funds in the rainy day fund, that they could use," Hinojosa said. "They could close business loopholes, they could have a soda tax. There's all sorts of different sources of revenue out there."
Without the state's help, MALDEF believes the property-poor districts will not have adequate funds to help students reach new state standards and college-readiness goals.
Hinojosa said ultimately, the long-term solution to the funding problem is for the legislature to create a more equitable system and that's what they hope to accomplish with the lawsuit.