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Landmark public education suit filed

May
23
1984

On this day in 1984, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a landmark suit against Texas education commissioner William Kirby in Travis County. In Edgewood ISD v. Kirby, filed on behalf of the Edgewood Independent School District, MALDEF charged that the state's methods of funding public education violated at least four principles of the state constitution, which obligate the state legislature to provide an efficient and free public school system. Initially, eight school districts and twenty-one parents were represented in the suit; eventually, sixty-seven other school districts and many other parents and students joined the original plaintiffs. The plaintiffs in Edgewood contested the state's reliance on local property taxes to finance public education on the grounds that property values vary greatly from district to district, thus creating inequality in education funds. The case took years to work its way through the courts, but in 1990 the Texas Supreme Court delivered a unanimous decision siding with the plaintiffs. In 1993, after several earlier attempts were declared unconstitutional, the legislature passed a school finance reform plan comprising several options for equalizing funding. In 1995 the Texas Supreme Court found the plan constitutional but ruled that the legislature still needed to work on equalizing and improving school facilities throughout the state.

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