Texas Supreme Court clarifies “exhaustion” requirements

We are all eagerly awaiting the decision of our state Supreme Court in the school finance case.  In the meantime, the Court has already decided another school finance case….sort of. This one is from Clint ISD.  Parents sued the district claiming that internal inequities in funding violated the Texas Constitution. On April 1, the Supreme Court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the plaintiffs should have taken the issue up with T.E.A. before filing suit.

It would have been interesting if the court had ruled on the merits of this one. The plaintiffs alleged that the school board spent a disproportionate amount of the district’s funds in the town of Clint, to the detriment of the schools located in Montana Vista and Horizon City.  Rather than addressing that issue, the court tossed the case out on procedural grounds. The legal term is: exhaustion of administrative remedies. The plaintiffs were required to take their case to the Commissioner. Until they did that, the courts lacked jurisdiction.

It’s a lengthy opinion and lawyers will want to study it carefully.  This case provides a detailed analysis of T.E.C. Section 7.057 and the meaning of the term “the school laws of this state.”  In a nutshell, the court held that although the plaintiffs had alleged that the funding scheme violated the Texas Constitution, in reality, all of the violations tied into statutory provisions. Thus the court viewed the case as a challenge to decisions about “the school laws of this state” and so, Commissioner Morath would have jurisdiction, but the courts do not.

The case is Clint ISD v. Marquez, decided by the Texas Supreme Court on April 1, 2016. We found it at 2016 WL 1268000.