by Colleen Flaherty
The system used by Texas to fund its schools violates the state’s constitution and shortchanges students, ruled a state district court Monday.
Judge John Dietz ruled that the Texas school finance system is not adequately funded and found the system to be unequal, citing wide and growing disparities between poor and wealthy school districts. Two-thirds of the state’s school districts joined the lawsuit.
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“Judge Dietz has told us what we already knew. State funding of our public schools is inadequate and inequitable, shortchanging 5 million school children and undermining their opportunity to reach their potential,” said elementary school teacher and Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker.
The funding problems worsened considerably in 2011, when the state legislature and Gov. Rick Perry cut $5.4 billion from education, more than $500 per child. At the same time, the state passed legislation raising school standards by increasing testing and requiring students to be “college-ready.”
“As the economists put it, there is no free lunch. We either want the increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don’t,” said Dietz in his ruling.
The case was brought to court by school districts representing more than 3.7 million students. The plaintiffs sued the state, claiming the inadequate and inequitable education funding violates the state constitution. Haecker also notes that Texas has a substantial surplus, making the dramatic cuts unnecessary in the first place.
“A long-term solution may require revenue reform to provide funding that grows with the state’s economy, but the state has enough money now, without raising taxes, to restore the cuts from public schools two years ago.”
The state is expected to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The legislature will most likely wait to act until after the appeals and the 2014 primary, according to Haecker.
Common sense tells us a child can’t wait for pre-K or the dropout prevention programs that were cut in 2011. Today’s ruling is a reminder that children who fall behind or drop out will pay a real price when their education is put on hold for another year. It’s a reminder that state leaders must do the right thing and provide students and teachers the resources they need to succeed.