Harris v. Texas Veterans Comm'n, No. 15-20105 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, a resident of Texas and an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army, challenged the constitutionality of the residency requirements in the Hazlewood Act, Tex. Educ. Code 54.341. The Act provides tuition waivers at public universities for certain Texas veterans who enlisted in Texas or were residents of Texas at the time they enlisted. The district court granted summary judgment for plaintiff. Texas advances the program as a means of incentivizing behavior taking place before entry into the military. It is sufficient that Texas has a rational basis for offering benefits to Texas residents (promoting Texans’ education and enlistment by Texans); that offering the same benefit to citizens who are residents of other states would not advance those interests; and that the financial burden of offering the benefit to residents of other states would reduce Texas’s capacity to advance those same interests. The court concluded that Texas has provided reasonable justifications for the qualifications used in the Hazlewood Act to advance its interests in promoting education and military service. Without a clearer indication from the Supreme Court that Texas’s decisions violate constitutional provisions, the court is hesitant to impose further restrictions on the sovereign power of the State to regulate its own education system. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court.