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The Brief: Sept. 1, 2015

The Texas Supreme Court will listen to oral arguments for two-and-a-half hours this morning in the latest court challenge to the state’s system for funding public schools.

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The Big Conversation

The Texas Supreme Court will listen to oral arguments for two-and-a-half hours this morning in the latest court challenge to the state’s system for funding public schools.

The Tribune’s Kiah Collier writes that the state is appealing a ruling made last year by District Judge John Dietz that the current system does not adequately fund schools, distributes money unequally across districts and amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax.

In 2011, the Legislature cut $5.4 billion from public schools to counter a severe budget shortfall. Since then, lawmakers have restored most of those funds but as Collier wrote on Monday, many districts are still feeling pain from that original round of cuts.

And if there's a certain familiar feeling to the proceedings, Collier notes that the state's highest civil appellate court has heard challenges to the school finance system six times since 1984.

The state's lawyers who are defending the current system are relying on arguments that the lower court hasn't taken into consideration students' performance on standardized tests as well as lawmakers' recent spending on schools. And the Austin American-Statesman's Chuck Lindell notes that the state is also arguing that courts should stay out of school funding decisions altogether:

Swinging for the fences, Gov. Greg Abbott asked the court to rule that school finance policy is a political exercise that does not belong in the courts — now or in the future.

“Litigation over Texas’ system of school finance has persisted for decades,” Abbott told the court in a legal brief, adding that unless the justices carve out an exception, “plaintiffs and their attorneys will subject the state to endless and needless litigation.”

Trib Must-Reads

Houston Seeks to Keep Power to Police Air Pollution, by Jordan Rudner – State environmental regulators don't do an adequate job of enforcing air pollution standards, the city of Houston believes, and on Wednesday it will ask the Texas Supreme Court to let it keep trying to do the job itself.

Election, Lawsuit Could Upend Price Disclosure Debate, by Aman Batheja – Texas has long been one of a handful of states that does not require the disclosure of real estate sales prices. Yet a recent lawsuit and a proposition on the November ballot could pave the way for change, proponents argue.

Group Pitches $2.8 Billion Hurricane Protection Plan, by Kiah Collier – A Rice University-based group is proposing an entirely new plan for protecting Houston, its ship channel and its residents from a massive storm surge during the next big hurricane. But consensus remains elusive. Perry cuts back in Iowa, but a super PAC comes to his rescue again

In Iowa, Castro Makes Debut as Clinton Surrogate, by Patrick Svitek – In his first trip to Iowa as Hillary Clinton's surrogate, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro argued that electing any Republican to the White House in 2016 will be bad for Latinos, given the immigrant-bashing taking place in the GOP's primary.

Racing Commission Future Still Unclear, by Sophia Bollag – Unless lawmakers come up with a deal soon to keep it funded, the Texas Racing Commission is prepared to close down tomorrow. That means all Texas racetracks will be forced to close as well.

Abbott Courting Feds for Health Care Money, Emails Show, by Edgar Walters – A newspaper editorial prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to have aides research the finances of a Houston health insurance plan to see if some hospitals caring for poor and uninsured Texans are "rolling in dough," emails obtained by The Texas Tribune show.  

State Formally Challenges Pro-Perry Ruling, by Patrick Svitek – The state is officially challenging an appeals court ruling last month that dismissed one of two counts in the abuse-of-power indictment against former Gov. Rick Perry. 

Perry Trims Iowa Staff as Super PAC Ramps Up, by Patrick Svitek A super PAC supporting Rick Perry for president is expanding its ranks in Iowa, coming to the aid of the former governor's cash-strapped campaign.

Elsewhere

Perry cuts back in Iowa, but a super PAC comes to his rescue againFort Worth Star-Telegram

New bills going into effect bring broad changes, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

A Timeline of Texas' 30 Years of School Finance Legal Fights, The Associated Press

Legislative leaders want to keep racing commission open — for now, Austin American-Statesman

Insights Seen Amid Many Redactions in Latest Release of Clinton Emails, The New York Times

Oil surges as global glut appears to diminish somewhat, Houston Chronicle

State asks court to reverse ruling in Perry abuse of power caseHouston Chronicle

New GOP mantra? “Proud to stand with police.”, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"We've grown up on it, so we ate it anyway. It was very sad, but we still kept our faith in Blue Bell."

Kim Jones, who bought Cookies 'n Cream Blue Bell ice cream Monday morning in Brenham, after the brand's return to store shelves.

Today in TribTalk

It's about more than school finance, by Chandra Kring Villanueva – Texas needs an education system that develops productive people and promotes shared prosperity. The school finance lawsuit shows that we have fallen short.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor on Sept. 4 in Austin

•    The Ticket: A Live Recording and GOP Primary Debate Watch Party on Sept. 16 in Austin

•    A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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