School Finance System Fails The Ultimate High Stakes Test – Texas' Constitution

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On Monday Judge John Dietz of the 250th District Civil Court ruled that Texas' school finance system failed the ultimate high stakes test – the state constitution. This decision is a big win for students, educators, and parents and should help bolster Texas Democrats who have championed the education funding crisis since the cuts were made last session. Attorney General Greg Abbott is expected to appeal the decision. Defending the cuts he took a line from the anti-fed playbook and used it against local school districts, saying they don't always spend their money wisely.

The giant elephant in the room is that without an educated workforce there is no “Texas miracle” and Texas businesses and industry leaders are beginning to speak out. Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond said, “I am pleased Judge Dietz agrees with me that our schools are not producing enough career and college ready students.” We must act now, use this opportunity to fund enrollment growth, reinstate programs like Pre-K, the Student Success Initiative, and restore funding to the level it was before the unnecessary cuts were made to our current budget.

Check below the jump for a round up of how Democrats responded around the state:”In 2011 Republicans cut 5 billion in school funding even though we now know that the state had those funds available.”

– Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa

The truth, which this ruling makes clear, is that Texas can do much better when it comes to providing essential economic infrastructure such as schools. that should start by reinstating the billions of dollars that were wrongly cut from school district budgets, pre-kindergarten programs, and other fundamental educational elements during the past session.

-Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) on behalf of Senate Democratic Caucus

“The sad truth is that for years the state has relied on stopgap measures and focused more on tax relief than strong schools.  Hopefully this latest in a long line of decisions will force the legislature to truly and systemically address the inequities in our school finance system to ensure that every child in every school — regardless of wealth — has access to a top-notch education.”

- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)

“[This decision] is an indictment of the current leadership's failure to safeguard our children's education and Texas economic Future.” concluding, “As a result of his ruling I believe the legislature now has a constitutional obligation this session to restore the cuts it made to our schools.”

– Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)

“Today proved that we need to start working today to fulfill the constitutional promise — enshrined in Texas' origin — of fair education for millions of students in the state. This ruling is evidence that Texas can do better.”

– Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso)

“The state had to make that argument to defend the suit, but it's a sad commentary on our priorities. It tells our children that mediocrity will do,”…”We need to craft a school finance system that's more than just legal, and we should do it now.”

-Senator Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio)

“Last legislative session, the Leadership chose to cut $5.4 billion out of public education. We at MALC take exception to that, especially when we consider that Texas Latinos are now over 50 percent of the student population. The Attorney General and Leadership spent months in court defending this unconstitutional system. Texas students would not be hurting if we had spent half that time trying to solve this problem. With $5.5 billion left unspent in H.B. 1 and $11.8 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, the legislature must act and prove that education is our number one priority.”

-MALC Chairman, State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)

“Today's ruling makes it clear that the Legislature has failed to meet the funding obligations of our public school system. Our Independent School Districts have consistently been asked to do more with less, never more so than with the $5.4 billion cut to public education in our current budget.”…”We have the ability-and the responsibility-to make the current funding system adequate and more equitable by restoring cuts now while also laying the groundwork for a permanent solution.”

– State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin)

“Every member in the legislature says they believe in education, but when push comes to shove, they vote against funding it and distributing monies equitably,”

-State Representative Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco)

“I voted against last session's drastic cuts to public education funding because they were bad for students, and they were bad for the future of Texas.”

- State Representative Eric Johnson (D-Dallas)

“I urge state leaders to use the upcoming supplemental appropriations bill to pay for the student enrollment growth that the legislature failed to cover during the last legislative session.”

- State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio)

“We aren't investing enough in education. We aren't dividing what we do spend fairly between school districts. And the state is forcing local property taxes up because it won't pay its share of the cost of education.”

- The Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director F. Scott McCown

“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 $5.4 billion –  more than $500 per child – cut from public schools two years ago.”

- Texas State teachers Association President Rita Haecker

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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