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Texas Charter Schools Next in Line With Funding Lawsuit

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It's the season for school funding lawsuits in Texas, and a group of charter school advocates and parents is getting into the act.

The Lone Star state's approach to paying for public education is already being challenged as inadequate in a number of lawsuits brought by groups of traditional public school systems—both wealthy and impoverished ones—who say the system violates various provisions in the state's constitution.

The new legal action, filed this week by the Texas Charter Schools Association and parents, argues that charters are on the short end when it comes to how much state aid they receive for facilities, and that the state's cap on charter school growth is an "artificial and unjustifiable barrier" to the state's school system operating efficiently. The complaint about inadequate funding for facilities is a common one among backers of charter schools, not just in Texas but around the country. The plaintiffs in the Texas lawsuit sum up their argument about bricks-and-mortar issues this way:

"Unlike school districts, which have a local tax base and receive state aid for facilities, charter schools have neither a local tax base nor receive state aid for instructional facilities. Consequently, charter schools are forced to spend operating dollars to support the cost of instructional facilities. An efficient system of public education requires not only classroom instruction, but also the classrooms where that instruction will occur. These two components of an efficient system—instruction and facilities—are inseparable. The current system forces charter schools to deplete funding which would otherwise be available for operational and instructional supports."

The lawsuit was filed in Travis County District Court in Austin. The court may decide to consolidate the charter schools' case with those of other Texas districts, and Texas Charter Schools Association would not object to that, it's executive director, David Dunn, tells Education Week.

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