Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby. Cited as: 777 S.W. 2d 391 (Tex. 1989)

Constitutional challenge under Texas State Constitution to inadequate school financing system (Article VII§ 1); remedy. 

Date of the Ruling: 
Oct 2 1989
Texas Supreme Court
Type of Forum: 

The Texas Constitution declares that “a general diffusion of knowledge” is “essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people”. Further, the Legislature and State have a duty “to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of free schools” (Article VII § 1). Here, the Petitioners sought a review of an appeal court's order that reversed a trial court judgment which found that Texas' school financing system violated the Texas Constitution. This system relied on local property taxes to fund schools. The wealthiest districts had 700 times more property wealth per student than the poorest, with the consequence that the poorest schools lacked sufficient funds to provide necessary services. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision that the system violated the state constitution.  The system did not address disparities in the ability of different districts to raise revenue, and did not assure every student receives an “efficient”, meaning “productive” or “effective” education. The system was neither financially efficient, nor did it provide for a “general diffusion of knowledge statewide”, but a “limited and unbalanced” diffusion. The resultant inequalities were directly contrary to the constitutional vision of ‘efficiency'. The court did not suggest a specific remedy, and noted that efficiency does not require a per capita distribution. However, the court did set a time limit, until September 1991, for the legislature to develop a new financing system.

Keywords: Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby. Cited as: 777 S.W. 2d 391 (Tex. 1989), Education, Right

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

Enforcement and other outcomes Following the decision, the Texas legislature had difficulty reaching consensus. A court appointed master developed an alternative reform plan, and consensus was finally reached. There were several other challenges to the various public school financing systems subsequently adopted by Texas. Most recently, in November 2004, in West Orange-Cove Consolidated ISD v Neeley, the Texas Supreme Court struck down the state's school funding system, finding that it had evolved into an unconstitutional property tax (source: www.schoolfunding.info.news/litigation ). The Court set a deadline for legislative action for 1 June 2006. The decision is being appealed by Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

Groups involved in the case: 

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 110 Broadway Suite #300 San Antonio, TX 78205 Phone: 210-224-5476 Fax: 210-224-5382 http://www.maldef.org David G. Hall, Attorney, Executive Director, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., 300 South Texas Boulevard, Weslaco, TX 78596, Tel. (956) 968?9574] http://www.trla.org Edgewood Independent School District 5358 W. Commerce St. San Antonio, TX. 78237 Tel: (210) 444-4500/444-4548 http://www.eisd.net/

Significance of the Case: 

This litigation continued the struggle begun in San Antonio ISD v Rodriguez (411 US 1 (1973)) [GET LINK TO ENTRY ON DATABASE]. The ruling is an example of a State court outlining the substantive level of education guaranteed by the education provisions of a state constitution.