In November 2005, the Texas Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision on school finance in the Shirley Neeley, Texas Commissioner of Education, et al. vs. West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, et al. (aka West Orange-Cove case). In a 7-1 decision, the current $1.50 tax cap creates a statewide property tax, which is unconstitutional.

The Texas Constitution prohibits a statewide property tax. Currently, public schools receive some portion of their district funding from local property taxes, with the maximum rate set at $1.50. The 117-page document also:

  • Deems current school funding levels as adequate;
  • Acknowledges the disparity between rich and poor school districts but does not deep the disparity as big enough to be unconstitutional;
  • Suggests the consolidation of smaller school districts in Texas in the name of fiscal efficiency; and
  • Cautions the state legislature that soon the funding disparities between rich and poor districts will be so great that it will be unconstitutional and in need of a remedy.

Some strive for excellence, others for just good enough
Some groups, felt pleased that the court spoke to the need for property tax relief and that it sees status quo funding levels and student achievement as good enough for the time being.

However, others had a much different reaction. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s David Hinojosa said: “Fifty years after Brown vs. Board, our undisputed evidence at trial showed that the quality of education for certain Texas children still suffers as a direct result of which side of the tracks they live on. Despite the glaring disparities between the haves and have-nots, the court refused to confront the issues head on.”

Learn more about the Supreme Court ruling and how it affects your schools.

See other questions and answers about the ruling and related issues

Learn more about the lower court ruling by Judge John Dietz.