Just for fun, let’s pretend we are members of the Texas Supreme Court and indulge in a little wishful thinking. Let’s close our eyes for a minute and hope that Dan Patrick resigns as lieutenant governor to begin a new career as a school custodian.
I am imagining a more useful, productive job for Dan, a job that actually would provide some public benefit from his fascination with bathrooms, and give the rest of us some relief from half-baked education “reform” ideas.
But we shouldn’t impose Dan on the kids, folks, not even in our dreams, and it’s not going to happen anyway. Patrick isn’t going to resign simply because we may wish it any sooner than the legislative majority is going to address problems with Texas’ school finance system simply because the Supreme Court said it hoped the Legislature would do that.
We may never know if Supreme Court justices were as concerned about the state of public education in Texas as they suggested in their published opinions or were simply using their words to shield an ideology, but what matters is they took the governor and the legislative majority off the legal hook for any kind of funding improvements.
The nine justices unanimously agreed that the school finance system, despite serious problems, met “minimum constitutional requirements.”
“I, for one, remain hopeful that more progress is yet to come,” Justice Eva Guzman added in one of the concurring opinions. But, from an enforceable legal standpoint, she may as well have been wishing for a visit from the Tooth Fairy.
The fight over school funding has left the legal arena and will continue to have to be fought in the political arena – the Legislature, the governor’s office and the court of public opinion.
TSTA and other public education advocates will continue to fight that fight, but it will be difficult. For the past 30 years, all the significant improvements that the Legislature has made in school funding have been prompted by court orders. And the initial reaction to the court’s decision from some state leaders wasn’t encouraging.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who as attorney general initiated the state’s school finance appeal to the Supreme Court, wrongly called the ruling a “victory for Texas taxpayers,” including local property taxpayers who are still on the hook to compensate for the state’s funding deficiencies. And Lt. Gov. Patrick will renew his efforts to peddle private school vouchers and other unproven schemes that would take more funding from public schools rather than increase it.
House Speaker Joe Straus applauded the Supreme Court decision, but he also signaled interest in looking beyond it.
“It’s important to remember the court also said there is ample room for improvement,” Straus said. “The Texas House will continue working to deliver value for taxpayers and provide an outstanding education for our students.”
We shall see.