You would expect Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick to want to appeal Judge John Dietz’s latest ruling that the state’s school funding system is unconstitutional, inadequate and unfair to thousands of Texas children. You would expect that because neither Abbott nor Patrick gives more than a half pint’s worth of lip service for public education, even though they are running for the state’s top two offices.
Further appeal would spare both Abbott and Patrick from having to comprehend real solutions that actually would benefit students, and it would again delay the day of reckoning for a legislative majority that prefers to drag its feet than fulfill its responsibilities.
But what business does the state education commissioner have encouraging an appeal and a waste of additional millions of tax dollars? That is what Commissioner Michael Williams did very soon after Dietz had issued his decision on Thursday.
“Texas is committed to finding solutions to educate every student in every classroom,” Williams said, despite the obvious fact that many political candidates and members of the Legislature are anything but committed to that goal. He also said, “This is an issue that will again be resolved by the Texas Supreme Court.”
Williams is correct that the Legislature, not a single judge, should make school finance decisions. But nothing in the state constitution or state law requires the Legislature to sit back and wait on an expensive appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The sole purpose of an appeal would be to buy time and hope that a Republican Supreme Court weakens Dietz’s strong ruling, while thousands of Texas school children continue to be shortchanged.
Williams should step up, be a strong advocate for school kids and admit that the trial judge and the 600 school districts that sued the state over funding are correct. The school funding system is abysmal and needs to be fixed now – not two or three years from now.
Just a few days ago, Williams had the gall to blame low STAAR scores on teachers, despite the fact the curriculum and the test aren’t fully aligned and the more-difficult test was introduced as the legislative majority was slashing $5.4 billion from school budgets, causing 11,000 teacher layoffs and thousands of overcrowded classrooms.
The education commissioner was making teachers the scapegoats for a problem he is helping to perpetuate. He, too, has become very good at lip service, and now he is encouraging the legislative majority to keep dodging its responsibility.