Clear Creek Independent School District Sues State for Owed Funds
League City, Texas- The Board of the Trustees of the Clear Creek Independent School District unanimously approved a resolution to join a coalition of school districts in a lawsuit against Texas. Public school financing is a complex and controversial system dating back to 2006 when the State forced school districts to reduce property tax rates from $1.50 to $1.00 per $100 valuation, froze per-student funding based on 2006 property values, and promised to make up the difference through the contentious business franchise tax. This tax never delivered the intended results. The State then came in this last session and cut $5 billion on top of that. Despite these cuts, the Texas legislature has continued to add requirements for school districts, increased accountability standards and testing requirements. Additionally, the State has enrolled more than 77,000 new students this year.
“This has created the perfect storm for local school districts,” said Greg Smith, Superintendent of Schools. “We are in a situation where the State is requiring more from students and schools but has failed to provide the adequate resources to meet those requirements. We all share in the moral and fiscal responsibility to do what is right for children.”
The decision to move forward was not an easy one for the Board of Trustees. “It is unfortunate and frankly, undeserving that we need to earmark local tax dollars to get the State to fulfill its constitutional obligation to the students of public education,” said Dee Scott, Board President. “We realize there are those out there that feel our students financially deserve less for their education. However, I would imagine those critics are not the parents of a child who perhaps did not get called on to participate in group lessons because an increase in class sizes made it no longer conducive for small group instruction. I would imagine those critics are not the parents of a child who is struggling academically but the funds for additional support no longer exist.”
The Board of Trustees and District administration are keenly aware of the economic challenges facing the country, the state, and the local community. In fact the District says this is one of the motivating factors in joining other school districts in this lawsuit. “Many of our families have had to do more with less and Clear Creek ISD is no different. We have eliminated more than 170 administrative, operational and teaching positions this year alone but yet we have grown by more than 700 new students,” said Bob Davee, Board Trustee. “The fact is our local taxpayers may be forced into paying more in property taxes as long as the State refuses to pay its share of the cost increases that come with its new testing and academic requirements. An increase in local property taxes would not come close to filling the long-term gap created by our legislators. We are moving forward in this suit to protect local property taxes.”
Under current school finance law, local school boards may raise property taxes by 13 cents through a tax rate election.
The coalition of school districts will be represented by David Thompson and Philip Fraissinet of Thompson & Horton LLP. Thompson and Fraissinet were part of the legal team that successfully argued the State property tax claim in 2005. Thompson also represented Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund in Edgewood IV in 1995 on behalf of 263 diverse school districts to raise the adequacy claim for the first time in Texas.
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