While residents in Dripping Springs are preparing to go back to school, their school district is busy preparing for court.

A lawsuit against Dripping Springs Independent School District is headed to trial, and residents have reason to pay attention — skyrocketing taxes, record debt, and a $132 million school bond are just some of what’s at stake.

The lawsuit began when a group of local residents, Citizens for Excellent Education in Dripping Springs (CEEDS), discovered that voters living in the district but across the Travis County line had been disenfranchised in the school district’s recent bond election, which passed by a mere 37 votes. At least 51 DSISD registered voters were not given an opportunity to cast a ballot in the election.

After a recount was granted and the group observed more mismanagement in the election, they took the matter to court.

“These violations made it impossible to ensure that every ballot was present and that every vote was properly counted,” CEEDS wrote in a press release.

Last week, both sides appeared in Travis County district court, where DSISD attempted to limit discovery. The district wanted to prevent CEEDS from obtaining evidence from the district in a legally-admissible form and thus cut off the voters’ claims.

A Travis County district judge ruled against DSISD’s motion.

Jerad Najvar, an attorney representing CEEDS, said the school district has not disputed any of the allegations but has instead used legal maneuvers to attempt to obstruct the case from going to trial. “CEEDS has a strong case,” he said, “and I look forward to defending the constitutional rights of the citizens and taxpayers of Dripping Springs ISD and bringing about a new election in which every qualified voter has the right to cast a free and fair ballot.”

CEEDS Grassroots Engagement Director Ashley Whittenberger echoed Najvar’s remarks:

“The DSISD School Board must not forget that they are the elected representatives of, and their first duty is to, the voters and taxpayers of the District,” she said. “DSISD’s lawyers’ bully tactics and attempts to win through legal maneuvers rather than address the merits of CEEDS’ election contest, directly reflect on our School Board’s leadership and only serve to undermine public trust in our schools and our elections.”

Whittenberger added that the recent hearing only further undermined that trust.

“The only thing that DSISD accomplished in the July 23rd hearing was wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on high-priced lawyers working against the best interests of those very same taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars are being used to pay the lawyers’ fees,” she said. “Our school taxes should be spent on students and teachers in the classroom, not over-priced San Antonio lawyers.”

A trial in the case is scheduled to begin in August.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.