The theme today is school finance. There is a pending Texas Supreme Court mandamus proceeding about bonds to pay for schools:

  • In re Waller Independent School District No.08-0079. This case, involving the Attorney General’s decision not to approve the school district’s bond package — not normally a scintillating subject — is written up in today’s Houston Chronicle in the article “Waller ISD sues to force release of bond money”.

Another challenge may be brewing that, again, attacks the design of the property-wealth-reallocation system:

  • The Dallas Morning News ran an article earlier this week titled “Wimberley school district challenging Texas’ ‘Robin Hood’ finance law”. The article explains that the district has decided not to remit the $3.1 million in property-wealth redistribution that is due on February 15th. The article says this would be “the first instance of a school district refusing to share its property taxes under the 15-year-old law.”

And the Texas Senate has just been charged with studying possible changes to the tax system to short-circuit future challenges to the property-tax system:

  • Neeley v. West Orange-Cove (West Orange-Cove II), No. 04-1144, majority dissent. The Dallas Morning News covers Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst’s set of interim charges for Texas Senate committees to study before 2009:

    School property taxes were also on Mr. Dewhurst’s priority list as he directed the finance and education committees to revisit that issue in the wake of the 2006 school finance reform law that cut school property taxes by a third and replaced the revenue with a new tax on businesses and a higher state cigarette tax.

    Referring to a Texas Supreme Court order in 2005 that declared the school funding system unconstitutional, Mr. Dewhurst told senators to “explore what mechanisms may exist to prevent any future constitutional funding challenges.” The 2005 court ruling and 2006 reform law stemmed from a lawsuit filed by hundreds of Texas school districts.