The state of Texas has over a thousand school districts, most of them independent except for one. This means they are separate from the municipal government. The school districts are not confined within city or county boundaries. Independent school districts have the authority to tax residents and declare eminent domain over their property. The Texas Education Agency is in charge of overseeing these districts in order to provide supplemental funding. In most cases, its jurisdiction only covers poorly performing districts. Thirty-six separate and distinct universities exist in Texas. Among these, thirty-two belong to one of the six university systems. The Carnegie Foundation classifies three of Texas’s universities as Tier 1reserch institutions.
In the recent past, the education system in Texas has had some challenges. Earlier this year, a state court ruled that the way the state funds its public schools does not adhere to the constitution. The reason given was that money that was insufficient was distributed unfairly. In the trial the lasted for months, the judge finally agreed that the process was in violation of the constitution. Relieved and agreeing with the judge’s decision, Wayne Pierce, the Executive director of Equity Center said the system was hopelessly broken (Smith 2013). This was because Texas has adopted a scheme called Robin Hood, a system where the state depends on property tax instead of using income tax.
The scheme that was enacted a decade ago requires a school in the richer districts to share resources with ones in the poorer districts. The current lawsuit was filed with schools from both districts. Mark Trachtenberg, an attorney who represented most schools in the Texas School Coalition, explained that with the budgets reduced by as much as $5.4 billion in the past two years alone, even rich schools had trouble meeting rising academic standards. He further said that schools needed more money to have smaller sized cases especially for earlier grades. The schools argued that they needed money for tutoring, keeping and hiring more teachers and longer pre-K programming. The attorney said that the state had sufficient money in its emergency fund to start funding some of the schools needs (Sharrer 56).
On the other hand, the state argued the schools had enough funds only that it was being mismanaged. Lobbyist Michael Sullivan agreed with the state, saying that the demands from the teachers did not necessarily mean funding from the state but better management of the available funds. He explained that money was being wasted by building expensive stadiums, and paying superintendents more than necessary while teachers were being fired for lack of funding. With such arguments from both sides, an appeal to overturn the ruling is certain. The plaintiffs suggested that the lawmakers should not wait too long to act since the more they do, the more the more the students will suffer. Some of the students may not even finish high school and college readiness will be inadequate.
Some state officials have already jumped into action, setting aside money in case more funding may be needed. In addition, as they prepare a remedy, the senator says the debate will continue, since the judge only offered a ruling, not a solution.
Smith, Tovia. Judge Rules Texas’ School-Funding Method Unconstitutional. 2013. Web. June 27th, 2013.
Scharrer, Gary. Hispanic children make up 91% of school enrollment growth. San Antonio. San Antonio tribune. 2010. Print.
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