Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Texas Court Rejects Judicial Supremacy

Several state supreme courts have made the mistake of legislating from the bench with respect to the financing of public schools. Typically those courts have done the work of liberals by insisting that more taxpayer money be spent on the failing public school system. Refreshingly, the Texas Supreme Court wisely rejected an attempt for the Court to engage in legislation.

More than a half-dozen times since the late 1980s, lawsuits have demanded that Texas courts force taxpayers to spend more on public schools. Most of the state’s public school districts participated in the latest litigation, which the Texas Supreme Court called “the most far-reaching funding challenge in Texas history.” The trial court record exceeded 200,000 pages, with a judgment that had 1,508 findings of fact. But the court system is not designed to decide issues like how to allocate taxpayer money to various projects. The legislature, with its duly elected representatives, is more accountable to the public and has greater flexibility in its procedures for holding hearings to receive input from parents and taxpayers.

When this colossal litigation finally reached the Texas Supreme Court, it ruled that courts should defer to the legislature on the issue of funding public schools. “Our Constitution endows the people’s elected representatives with vast discretion in fulfilling their constitutional duty to fashion a financed school system fit for our unique characteristics.” Unanimous rulings are rare, but the Texas Supreme Court was unanimous in rejecting the demand that it interfere with this function of the legislature. The Court emphasized that it was not saying that the method for funding public schools was perfect, but that courts should not interfere. We elect state legislators to address issues like this, and other state supreme courts would be better off if they followed this example from Texas.

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