During today’s hearing over the school finance lawsuit, a lawyer for the state told the Texas Supreme Court that “money isn’t pixie dust” that can automatically improve public education. I don’t know how long it took him to come up with that line, but if he is proud of it, he shouldn’t be.
It’s quotable, but meaningless.
The 600 or so school districts that sued the state over funding never claimed money alone can perform academic magic. That is the job of educators.
But here are just a few of the things that better school funding can do:
# Reduce class sizes so that more students – particularly young, disadvantaged children — can get more of the individual attention they need from teachers. Last year, the state granted waivers allowing 5,883 classes from kindergarten through fourth grade to exceed the 22-student limit, mainly because of financial hardships claimed by under-funded school districts.
# Allow districts to hire more teachers and keep the best teachers in the classroom longer. Texas public schools hired 3,700 fewer teachers in the 2014-15 school year than they did in 2011, before the legislative majority cut $5.4 billion from the education budget. Student enrollment grew by more than 220,000 during that period, and some districts are still spending less per student than they did in 2011.
# Purchase more computers and updated instructional materials for students.
Texas ranks 38th in per-student spending among the states and the District of Columbia, spending more than $2,000 per kid below the national average.
As TSTA President Noel Candelaria pointed out: “The arithmetic is simple. Our students and teachers are being shortchanged, and every day the state fails to invest in our classrooms is another day that students are forced to pay the price.”
School districts, their employees and students will have to wait until at least next year before the Supreme Court rules in the case. They are demanding an adequate, fair and equitable school funding system. They will know what to do with the money, and they won’t need “pixie dust.”