One Affirmation for the Democrat Trial Judge

In order for the wealthier districts to pursue higher local tax rates,
they had to argue that the existing tax cap left them no ‘meaningful
discretion’ beyond funding educational basics.  Here the Supreme
Court agreed that the trial judge had made the right assessment; the
richer districts in Texas needed more money:

Meaningful discretion cannot be quantified; it is an
admittedly imprecise standard. But we think its application in this
case is not a close question. The district court found that the
plaintiffs= Afocus districts@ for which evidence was offered Alack
>meaningful discretion= in setting their local property tax rates.@
Contrary to the dissent=s assertion, this finding was supported by
evidence other than conclusory opinions of district superintendents.
The district court detailed evidence showing 108 how the districts are
struggling to maintain accreditation with increasing standards, a
demographically diverse and changing student population, and fewer
qualified teachers, while cutting budgets even further. The district
court found that due to inadequate funding: 52.8% of the newly hired
teachers in 2002 were not certified, up from 14.1% in 1996; more
teachers were being required to teach outside their areas of expertise;
and attrition and turnover were growing. The court cited the higher
costs of educating economically disadvantaged students and students
with limited English proficiency, noting that 90% of the growth in the
student population has come from low-income families. And as set out in
more detail above, the district court noted the increased curriculum,
testing, and accreditation standards, and the increased costs of
meeting them. These are facts, not opinions. The State defendants point
to evidence of some discretionary spending on programs not essential to
accreditation, but there is also evidence that such programs are
important to keeping students in school.

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