Much has been written about the 500 or so school districts that have sued the state, seeking to force improvements in the school finance system. Expectations have been raised, but nobody can predict whether the Texas Supreme Court, which will issue the final order some months from now, will try to rescue the public schools or complete the demolition job started by the governor and the legislative majority. This Supreme Court, in many respects, is a different animal than the Supreme Court that issued the first ruling for school equity in the landmark 1989 Edgewood case.
But, let us assume that the court does order the Legislature to improve the school funding system. In that case, any celebrating still could be premature, as Wayne Pierce, the executive director of the Equity Center, which organized one of the school finance suits, pointed out yesterday in Edinburg at a town hall meeting on education.
“Even if these (school) lawyers do a fantastic job and win in court, we still have to win in the Legislature,” Pierce was quoted in the McAllen Monitor. And, he is correct.
Remember 2006? The Texas Supreme Court had issued the most recent school finance order, and school officials were optimistic that they had scored a victory. But Gov. Rick Perry turned the ruling into an opportunity to win legislation (in a reelection year special session) that slashed school property taxes by onethird. The Legislature only partially restored the lost funding with extra state money, creating an annual $5 billion “structural deficit” in the public education budget. Then, last year, Perry and the legislative majority cut $5.4 billion from the public schools.
Public school advocates have to keep the heat on the Legislature and, beginning with this year’s primaries, have to start electing legislative candidates who actually will vote for the public schools and for adequate school funding, not just make flagwaving, political statements about “supporting” public education.
And, we need to keep pressuring Gov. Perry to call the Legislature into special session now to spend $2.5 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to restore the cuts made from the 201213 education budget. We can’t wait for a court ruling and a morepermanent school finance fix to stop the school bleeding now.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio, DBrownsville, who arranged the town hall meeting in Edinburg, signed TSTA’s petition demanding the special session. Thousands of other concerned Texans have done the same. If you haven’t, you can find the petition by clicking on this link: