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The Brief: Aug. 29, 2014

It's a good thing that Judge John Dietz dropped his school finance ruling before a three-day weekend, because interested parties could use that extra day to go over his 400-plus page decision.

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The Big Conversation

It's a good thing that Judge John Dietz dropped his school finance ruling before a three-day weekend, because interested parties could use that extra day to go over the 400-plus page decision that found the state's school finance system unconstitutional.

The Tribune's Morgan Smith wrote that Dietz ruled the system ran afoul of the state constitution "not only because of inadequate funding and flaws in the way it distributes money to districts, but also because it imposes a de facto state property tax. Certain to be appealed by the state, the lawsuit that arose after lawmakers cut roughly $5.4 billion from state public education funding in 2011 will now continue to the Texas Supreme Court."

The decision itself wasn't terribly surprising. Dietz basically repeated the verbal ruling he issued in February 2013. But reports on Thursday focused on the breadth of the ruling.

The Austin American-Statesman's Chuck Lindell wrote, "Instead, Dietz ruled, every measure presented to the court — including passing rates on state-mandated tests, college-entrance test scores, and graduation and dropout rates — demonstrated that Texas schools are falling short 'due to inadequate funding.'”

The news also was not good for charter schools and a group representing parents, school choice advocates and the business community. Their claims were turned away by Dietz.

Dietz gave the Legislature until July to remedy the system's defects. A lot of things will happen before then. The Texas Supreme Court will review the ruling, and the Legislature will meet in a few months with public education now thrust onto the front burner yet again.

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas Racing Commission meets at 10:30 a.m. in Austin with a new rule authorizing historical racing on the agenda. The proposal has proven to be controversial.

•    Rick Perry and other rumored presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Ben Carson will be in Dallas for the two-day Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit.

•    Labor Day is Monday, heralding the traditional start of the general election campaign season. The Brief will take the holiday off, but we'll be back Tuesday morning.

Trib Must-Reads

Swelling Districts Find Costly Way to Grow Campuses, by Aman Batheja (w/ local debt explorer)

Hospitals Say They've Lost Insured Patients to Urgent Care, by Alexa Ura

Analysis: The Hunt for a Different Political Watchdog, by Ross Ramsey


Hand-held cellphone use to be illegal while driving in Austin, Austin American-Statesman

Ted Cruz feeds 2016 buzz with hires, Politico

Wendy Davis offers plan to help Texas military and veterans, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

State’s Medicaid settlement makes just a small splash, Austin American-Statesman

Exclusive: GOP poll of women: Party 'stuck in past', Politico

The Dawn of the Post-Clinic Abortion, The New York Times

Losing Ground, ProPublica

Disputed Kurdish oil tanker mysteriously goes dark off Texas coast, Reuters

Quote to Note

"If politicians are like rock stars, Rick Perry is Miley Cyrus."

— An editorial in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, likening Perry's recent trip to the Granite State to the pop star's "calculated effort toward image rehabilitation" at MTV's Video Music Awards

Today in TribTalk

A new entitlement program in Texas?, by Bennett Ratliff

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With UT System Regent Wallace Hall, on Sept. 4 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri, on Sept. 10 at The Austin Club

•    The full program has been announced for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival, Sept. 19-21.

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, on Sept. 24 at the UTSA Downtown Campus in San Antonio.

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Health care Politics Public education Rick Perry Ted Cruz Wendy Davis