Looking for inefficiency…or excuses?

Hold your breath, folks…and imagine a drum roll.

Next week, we will be treated (a deliberate misuse of the word) to the latest on a very high stack of taxpayerfunded studies of Texas’ school finance system. This one – the umpteenth, at my count – will focus, allegedly, on school district efficiency. As were most of the others, it was ordered by the Legislature, and, like the others, it won’t change the fact that the basic, overriding problem with the school finance system is that it is inadequately and inequitably funded by the Legislature.

I am not sure of the detail of this study, which was conducted by the comptroller’s office. It may very well have found some examples of inefficient or wasteful spending among Texas’ 1,000plus school districts, and maybe it will produce some positive ideas for change. But I fear that it mostly will be used – if anyone at the Capitol pays much attention to it to give the governor and the legislative majority some political cover for slashing the education budget instead of increasing state revenue for schools.

The study may find some overpaid superintendents, a few unnecessary gyms or some electives that are too costly. But, if the study is thorough and honest, it also will find some overcrowded classrooms, some poorly equipped laboratories and a lot of underpaid teachers having to fork over several hundred dollars from their own pockets for basic classroom supplies – all because of inadequate state support.

As Ray Freeman of the Equity Center noted in an interview with reporter Ben Philpott of KUT radio and the Texas Tribune: “Where we get into trouble with efficiency is when you have a state (finance) system that’s as inefficient as the current one is.”

And as poorly funded.



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