Education IS a constitutional entitlement

The Legislature, by imposing deep budget cuts on the public schools during the regular session while leaving $6 billion of the taxpayers’ money unspent in the Rainy Day Fund, already has neglected its constitutional duty to adequately fund the public schools. And, it may stray even farther from its duty during the special session, thanks to a governor and a legislative leadership that put ideology above school kids.

As has been reported previously, the new public education budget is the first in 27 years that fails to fully fund school finance formulas and meet anticipated enrollment growth.

Now, to make matters even worse, as the Austin AmericanStatesman points out, the school finance plan being considered in the special session also would wipe out future guarantees that school districts would get enough state funding to provide a basic, foundational education for each student. Instead, the plan stipulates that future school finance appropriations would depend on how much money is available rather than how much is needed.

Sen. Dan Patrick, RHouston, defends the effort to cut what he calls an educational “entitlement,” applying the politically negative spin to the word.

“There are no guarantees, and for a Legislature to say we can guarantee this forever is not being straightforward to the people,” he said.

Patrick and every other member of the state leadership need to read Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, which makes clear the Legislature’s responsibility to “make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

Yes, Dan, the school kids of Texas have an educational “entitlement.” The Texas Constitution says so. And, I doubt that anyone who really values public education (beyond the lip service stage) would find the financial support provided to the public schools in the new state budget even close to “suitable.”

Patrick needs to spend more time complying with the Texas Constitution and less time making politically charged speeches exaggerating the states’ rights implications of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He needs to be “straightforward” with the taxpayers of Texas.


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