Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School Dist. v. Edgewood Independent School Dist., CARROLLTON-FARMERS

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtGONZALEZ; Dissenting opinion by DOGGETT, J., joined by MAUZY; CORNYN; GAMMAGE; DOGGETT; McCown; In a most misleading concurring and dissenting opinion; Finally; MAUZY
Citation826 S.W.2d 489
Parties73 Ed. Law Rep. 1190 BRANCH INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Appellants, v. EDGEWOOD INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT and Alvarado Independent School District, et al., Appellees. , et al. 1
Docket NumberCARROLLTON-FARMERS,No. D-1469
Decision Date30 January 1992

Page 489

826 S.W.2d 489
73 Ed. Law Rep. 1190
CARROLLTON-FARMERS BRANCH INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et
al., Appellants,
v.
EDGEWOOD INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT and Alvarado
Independent School District, et al., Appellees.
No. D-1469, et al. 1
Supreme Court of Texas.
Jan. 30, 1992.

Page 492

Michael L. Atchley, Earl Luna, Robert E. Luna, Dallas, for appellants in No. C-1469.

Richard E. Gray, III, David R. Richards, Crillion Payne, Austin, Albert H. Kauffman, San Antonio, Toni Hunter, Kevin T. O'Hanlon, Austin, for appellees in No. C-1469.

R. James George, Jr., Austin, Schuyler B. Marshall, Dallas, Thomas I. Davies, Richard L. Arnett, Austin, Roger Rice, Sommerville, Mass., Truman Dean, Jr., Houston, Martha P. Owen, Austin, E. Ray Hutchinson, Dallas, Mark S. Partin, Toni Hunter, Austin, Albert H. Kauffman, San Antonio, Lonnie Hollingsworth, Jr., Kevin T. O'Hanlon, Austin, for appellants in No. C-1477.

David R. Richards, Crillion Payne, Austin, Jane Politz Brandt, Dallas, Hugh Lowe, Peter D. Kennedy, Austin, John H. Martin, Deborah G. Hankinson, Dallas, for appellees in No. C-1477.

Schuyler B. Marshall, Deborah G. Hankinson, John H. Martin, G. Luke Ashley, Dallas, for appellants in No. C-1560.

Jerry R. Hoodenpyle, Arlington, E. Ray Hutchinson, Dallas, Richard E. Gray, III, Crillion Payne, David R. Richards, Richard L. Arnett, Martha P. Owen, Austin, Albert H. Kauffman, San Antonio, Lonnie Hollingsworth, Jr., Kevin T. O'Hanlon, Toni Hunter, Austin, for appellees in No. C-1560.

Hugh Lowe, Peter D. Kennedy, R. James George, Jr., Thomas I. Davies, Austin, for appellants in No. C-1493 and No. C-1544.

David B. Owen, A. Bruce Wilson, Fort Worth, for appellees in No. C-1493.

Stephen H. Suttle, David L. Buhrmann, Abilene, for appellees in No. C-1544.

OPINION ON DIRECT APPEAL

GONZALEZ, Justice.

We are again called upon to determine whether the state public school finance system violates the Texas Constitution. Article VII, section 1 of the Texas Constitution gives the Legislature the duty "to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." We have twice recently held that the state public school system, because of the way in which it is financed, is not "efficient" as required by this provision of the Constitution. Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Kirby, 777 S.W.2d 391, 398 (Tex.1989) ["Edgewood I "], 804 S.W.2d 491, 498 (Tex.1991) ["Edgewood II "]. To try to cure the system's constitutional infirmity, the Seventy-Second Legislature enacted Senate Bill 351, as amended by House Bill 2885 ("Senate Bill 351"), 2 making various changes in the school finance scheme. At issue before us now is whether the method prescribed by this statute violates other provisions of the Texas Constitution.

Page 493

Appellants, composed of numerous school districts and individual citizens, challenge the constitutionality of the school finance system devised by Senate Bill 351 on three grounds: (1) that it levies a state ad valorem tax in violation of article VIII, section 1-e; (2) that it levies an ad valorem tax without approval of the voters in violation of article VII, section 3; and (3) that it creates county education districts ("CEDs") in violation of article VII, section 3 and article III, sections 56 and 64(a). Appellees include the State of Texas, certain CEDs created by Senate Bill 351, and other interested school districts and individual citizens. 3 In this proceeding, all appellees are aligned with the State in defending Senate Bill 351 against the challenges by appellants.

We are fully aware of the gravity of the issues raised by the present appeals and the singular importance of this litigation to the people of Texas. In Edgewood I, we stated:

[W]e have not been unmindful of the magnitude of the principles involved, and the respect due to the popular branch of the government.... Fortunately, however, for the people, the function of the judiciary in deciding constitutional questions is not one which it is at liberty to decline.... [We] cannot, as the legislature may, avoid a measure because it approaches the confines of the constitution; [we] cannot pass it by because it is doubtful; with whatever doubt, with whatever difficulties a case may be attended, [we] must decide it, when it arises in judgment.

777 S.W.2d at 394, citing Morton v. Gordon, Dallam 396, 397-398 (Tex.1841). In Edgewood II, we stated:

We do not undertake lightly to strike down an act of the Legislature. We are mindful of the very serious practical and historical difficulties which attend the Legislature in devising an efficient system [of public schools], and we recognize the efforts of the legislative and executive departments to achieve this goal.

804 S.W.2d at 498.

The appellants must bear the burden of demonstrating that Senate Bill 351 is unconstitutional, because we presume state statutes to be constitutional. E.g., Vinson v. Burgess, 773 S.W.2d 263, 266 (Tex.1989); Spring Branch Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Stamos, 695 S.W.2d 556, 558 (Tex.1985), appeal dism'd, 475 U.S. 1001, 106 S.Ct. 1170, 89 L.Ed.2d 290 (1986). After careful consideration of the constitutional principles in issue, we sustain two of the appellants' challenges to Senate Bill 351. First, we hold that Senate Bill 351 levies a state ad valorem tax in violation of article VIII, section 1-e; and second, we hold that the Bill levies an ad valorem tax without an election in violation of article VII, section 3 of the Texas Constitution.

Appellees argue that in Edgewood II we in effect pre-approved the constitutionality of the finance structures later adopted in Senate Bill 351 and now under attack. Their argument, as we shall show, is disproved both by the text of Edgewood II and by the doubts raised before the Legislature concerning the validity of Senate Bill 351. We do not suggest that the Legislature has failed to act in good faith; we hold only that it has failed to enact a constitutional school finance system.

Our holding in this case does not conflict with our previous decisions in Edgewood I and Edgewood II, and we in no way withdraw from those opinions. None of the parties to this proceeding has urged us to reconsider our decisions in Edgewood I and Edgewood II, and we have not done so. We reaffirm our earlier holdings that unconstitutional

Page 494

inefficiency in the public school system must be eliminated without delay. Yet we cannot brush aside the serious constitutional infirmities that affect Senate Bill 351 in the interest of expediting necessary changes in public school finance. It is not clear that upholding Senate Bill 351 would advance this goal. The appellee school districts and private citizens do not concede that Senate Bill 351 satisfies the constitutional standard of efficiency set out in our earlier opinions; but that issue is not now before us. This case broaches other constitutional standards which must be applied as scrupulously as we previously applied the standard of efficiency to the provision of public education.

We recognize "the vital role of education in a free society." San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 30, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 1295, 36 L.Ed.2d 16 (1972). We acknowledge "that 'education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.' " Id. at 29, 93 S.Ct. at 1295; Brown v. Board of Educ., 347 U.S. 483, 493, 74 S.Ct. 686, 691, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954). Article VII, section 1 of the Texas Constitution enunciates these same principles:

A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

The dissent implies that the Court's commitment to more equal educational opportunity has waned. The Court's commitment is to the Constitution, to each and every one of its provisions, and in that commitment we remain steadfast.

I

Although we have reviewed the nature and history of our school finance system in Edgewood I and Edgewood II, an understanding of these matters is so important to the proper assessment of the legal issues before us that we revisit the subject here. The history of Texas school finance has been one of a " 'rough accommodation' of interests in an effort to arrive at practical and workable solutions." Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 55, 93 S.Ct. at 1308 (citations omitted). Texas has steadily progressed from a time when local ad valorem taxes for public education were seen as a supplement to state funding, to the point that local ad valorem taxes now are expected to provide most of the basic needs of education. 4 From 1906 to 1989, the portion of total state school funding contributed by local tax revenue increased from 24 percent to 53 percent. Billy D. Walker, The District Court and Edgewood III: Promethean Interpretation or Procrustean Bed? 21-22 (Oct. 23, 1991) (unpublished monograph, on file with record). Differences in the wealth in local tax bases created great disparities in the amount of revenue which varying locales could generate with the same tax effort, despite regular legislative adjustments to the system. In Edgewood I and Edgewood II we determined that these disparities are indicative of an inefficient system. It is within this historical context that the Legislature passed Senate Bill 351.

When our present Constitution was adopted in 1876, it provided for the meting out of state education funds on a per-student basis. 5 TEX. CONST. art. VII, § 5. In 1883, the Constitution was amended so that local taxes could augment the required funding for education. The amendment allowed the Legislature to create local school districts and to authorize them to levy a tax within certain limits. TEX. CONST. art. VII, § 3 (1876, as amended 1883).

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81 practice notes
  • Smith v. Travis County Educ. Dist., Civ. No. A-92-CA-75
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • May 1, 1992
    ...with respect to public education in the State of Texas. See Carrollton-Farmers Branch Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist., 826 S.W.2d 489, 494-99 (Tex.1992) ("Edgewood III"). Twice before Edgewood III, The Texas Supreme Court had addressed the State's school finance system. See ......
  • Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., No. 33350.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 12, 2009
    ...involving changes of law in civil cases retroactively[.]"); Carrollton-Farmers Branch Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist., 826 S.W.2d 489, 515 (Tex.1992) ("Generally, judicial decisions apply retroactively."); State v. Styles, 166 Vt. 615, 616, 693 A.2d 734, 735 (1997) ("We have......
  • Ex parte James
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 10, 1997
    ...I, 777 S.W.2d at 399. Later, in a companion case, Carrollton-Farmers Independent School District v. Edgewood Independent School District, 826 S.W.2d 489, 522-23 (Tex.1992), the court set a June 1993 deadline for the Texas Legislature to comply with Edgewood I. The Texas Legislature then pas......
  • Elbaor v. Smith, No. D-1163
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • December 2, 1992
    ...v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 665 S.W.2d 414, 434 (Tex.1984). In Carrollton Farmers Branch Ind. School Dist. v. Edgewood Ind. School Dist., 826 S.W.2d 489, 518-19 (Tex.1992), we adopted the three factors from the United States Supreme Court's decision in Chevron Oil Co. v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 106......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
81 cases
  • Smith v. Travis County Educ. Dist., Civ. No. A-92-CA-75
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • May 1, 1992
    ...with respect to public education in the State of Texas. See Carrollton-Farmers Branch Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist., 826 S.W.2d 489, 494-99 (Tex.1992) ("Edgewood III"). Twice before Edgewood III, The Texas Supreme Court had addressed the State's school finance system. See ......
  • Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., No. 33350.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 12, 2009
    ...involving changes of law in civil cases retroactively[.]"); Carrollton-Farmers Branch Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist., 826 S.W.2d 489, 515 (Tex.1992) ("Generally, judicial decisions apply retroactively."); State v. Styles, 166 Vt. 615, 616, 693 A.2d 734, 735 (1997) ("We have......
  • Ex parte James
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 10, 1997
    ...I, 777 S.W.2d at 399. Later, in a companion case, Carrollton-Farmers Independent School District v. Edgewood Independent School District, 826 S.W.2d 489, 522-23 (Tex.1992), the court set a June 1993 deadline for the Texas Legislature to comply with Edgewood I. The Texas Legislature then pas......
  • Elbaor v. Smith, No. D-1163
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • December 2, 1992
    ...v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 665 S.W.2d 414, 434 (Tex.1984). In Carrollton Farmers Branch Ind. School Dist. v. Edgewood Ind. School Dist., 826 S.W.2d 489, 518-19 (Tex.1992), we adopted the three factors from the United States Supreme Court's decision in Chevron Oil Co. v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 106......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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