Article VII, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

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.

Editor Comments

The Texas Supreme Court has struggled to determine and define the enforceable requirements of this fundamental section.

Steve Smith

Recent Court Decisions

  • Morath v. Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition, 490 S.W.3d 826, 833 (Tex. 2016) ("But our judicial responsibility is not to second-guess or micromanage Texas education policy or to issue edicts from on high increasing financial inputs in hopes of increasing educational outputs. There doubtless exist innovative reform measures to make Texas schools more accountable and efficient, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Judicial review, however, does not licence second-guessing the political branches' policy choices, or substituting the wisdom of nine judges for that of 181 lawmakers. Our role is much more limited, as is our holding: Despite the imperfections of the current school funding regime, it meets minimum constitutional requirements.")
  • Neeley v. West Orange-Cove Consol. I.S.D., 176 S.W.3d 746, 753 (Tex. 2005) (footnotes omitted) ("[E]fficiency requires that '[c]hildren who live in poor districts and children who live in rich districts must be afforded a substantially equal opportunity to have access to educational funds.' We have referred to efficiency in the broader sense as 'qualitative', and to efficiency in the context of funding as 'financial'. The parties have also referred to financial efficiency as 'quantitative'. Another standard set by the constitutional provision is that public education achieve '[a] general diffusion of knowledge ... essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people'. We have labeled this standard 'adequacy', and the parties have adopted the same convention.")
  • West Orange-Cove Consol. I.S.D. v. Alanis, 107 S.W.3d 558, 562-563 (Tex. 2003) (footnote omitted) ("The district court dismissed the case on the pleadings, holding that a constitutional violation could not be alleged because far fewer than half of Texas' 1,035 school districts were taxing at the maximum rates allowed. The court of appeals affirmed, focusing not on how many districts were taxing at maximum rates but on whether any of them were forced to do so just to provide an accredited education as defined by statute. We disagree with both courts and therefore reverse and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.")

Historic Court Decisions

  • Edgewood I.S.D. v. Kirby, 777 S.W.2d 391, 394 (Tex. 1989) ("This is not an area in which the Constitution vests exclusive discretion in the legislature; rather the language of article VII, section 1 imposes on the legislature an affirmative duty to establish and provide for the public free schools. This duty is not committed unconditionally to the legislature's discretion, but instead is accompanied by standards. By express constitutional mandate, the legislature must make "suitable" provision for an "efficient" system for the "essential" purpose of a "general diffusion of knowledge." While these are admittedly not precise terms, they do provide a standard by which this court must, when called upon to do so, measure the constitutionality of the legislature's actions.")
  • Mumme v. Marrs, 40 S.W.2d 31, 36 (Tex. 1931) ("Referring now to the basis of the Act, that the Legislature has the right to give aid from the general revenue to financially weak schools, we think the constitutional mandate that the Legislature shall make 'suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools,' ample authority. The word 'suitable,' used in connection with the word 'provision' in this section of the Constitution, is an elastic term, depending upon the necessities of changing times or conditions, and clearly leaves to the Legislature the right to determine what is suitable, and its determination will not be reviewed by the courts if the act has a real relation to the subject and object of the Constitution.")
  • Glass v. Pool, 166 S.W. 375, 377 (Tex. 1914) ("[C]ounsel for appellee present these grounds of invalidity of the law .... (2) That the act does not provide an efficient system of free schools, and is void.... The law in this respect has not been shown to be in conflict with the Constitution in any particular; therefore no court in this state has power to right that wrong, if it be such. This conclusion embraces all of the objections which relate to the unfairness, injustice, and wrong to the complainants, whether they occurred through fraud, inadvertence, or want of information; all of these matters were settled by enacting the law. We will not discuss them in detail.")
  • Webb County v. Board of School Trustees of Laredo, 65 S.W. 878, 879-880 (Tex. 1901) ("Our organic law, in the article devoted to the subject of public education, contains this emphatic declaration: '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.' Const. art. 7, § 1. This devolves the duty of establishing and maintaining public free schools upon the legislature, and shows that the function of such establishment and maintenance was to be performed by state agencies.")

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