MALDEF At Trial Once More Seeking Equity in Texas School Finance
For the first eight weeks of a Texas school finance trial that began on October 22, 2012, and will continue after the New Year, MALDEF presented over a dozen witnesses who testified about the inadequacy and inequity of the Texas educational system. The witnesses included national experts such as: Dr. Albert Cortez, Director of Policy for the Intercultural Development Research Association; Dr. Steven Barnett, Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research; Delia Pompa, Vice President for Education at the National Council of La Raza; Dr. Clive Belfield, Assistant Professor of Economics at Queens College, City University of New York; and Dr. Jake Vigdor, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University.
The witnesses testified on a variety of critical issues including equity gaps of over $1,300 per child between wealthy and poor school districts, inadequate pre-K programs, unequal opportunities for ELL and low-income students and the costs/benefits of successful interventions, to name a few. MALDEF also presented testimony from three superintendents who informed the Court of the incredible challenges their children face with more rigorous curriculum and testing standards but with fewer educational opportunities due to the State's $5.4 billion cut to education during the 2011 special legislative session, and the inequitable distribution of revenue.
In addition, school teachers testified about challenges they and their students face in the classroom with higher class sizes, under-resourced educational programs and low quality professional development. A MALDEF parent client from Pasadena also testified about the difference in opportunities her children faced after being forced to move back to a property-poor district from a wealthy district after the economic downturn.
For almost three decades, MALDEF has litigated in pursuit of equal educational opportunity for Texas’s most needy students. MALDEF first partnered with the Edgewood Independent School District and others in a fair school funding suit against Texas in the 1984 case, Edgewood v. Kirby. As a result of the case, the Texas Supreme Court declared that the Texas Constitution mandated: “children who live in poor districts and children who live in rich districts must be afforded a substantially equal opportunity to have access to educational funds.” Since then, the Texas educational system has fallen woefully short of this mandate and once again, “the law firm of the Latino community” stands before a Texas court in Edgewood ISD v. Williams, in an ongoing fight to reform the state’s school finance system on behalf of English language learner and low income children, as well as property-poor school districts.
Travis County District Court Judge, John K. Dietz, called for a three-week holiday break. Trial will resume on January 7, 2013 and is expected to continue through February 4, 2013.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.