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et al. v. Rodriguez San Antonio School District et al.

Background

When Texas became a state in 1845, its first state constitution established free public schools. Soon, the state enacted a two-way method of financing schools. The state and the local school district would both contribute. By 1883, the Texas legislature amended its constitution to provide local school districts with the power to levy ad valorem taxes, to build new school buildings and to maintain existing school buildings. An ad valorem tax means the tax is calculated on a property's value--in this case, essentially a property tax.

The state's Permanent School Fund and Available School Fund supplemented whatever funding was provided locally. Public land was set aside to provide this fund with the income necessary to support the state's public schools. The Permanent School Fund, a state ad valorem tax, and certain other taxes, provided money to the Available School Fund which actually disbursed most of the state educational funds through the rest of the nineteenth century and into the first half of the twentieth. In 1918, state property taxes were increased to help provide free textbooks to all the schools.

In its earlier history, Texas was mostly rural, helping to distribute population and property wealth throughout the state in a generally even fashion. That changed as the state became more industrialized and population shifted from rural to urban settings.

Soon, the growing differences in population and property wealth in different school districts resulted in larger differences in the amounts being spent locally for education. It also began to become apparent that the Available School Fund could not fill-in the growing chasm between richer and poorer districts.

As the difference grew between the tax base of different school districts, the state designed complex formulae, such as the Gilmer-Aikin bill, that established the Texas Minimum Foundation School Program. At the time of San Antonio v. Rodriguez, this program accounted for about half of the money spent on education in Texas. This program had two goals: to place a heavier financial burden on the wealthier districts, and to make all school districts contribute to its children's education without exhausting the resources of any one district. In practice, wealthier districts had more resources to supplement state and program funding.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980et al. v. Rodriguez San Antonio School District et al. - Significance, Background, Edgewood V. Alamo Heights, What Happened, Further Readings