TSTA has not endorsed a candidate in the race for chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, but people who are concerned about public education should be reminded that the incumbent, Nathan Hecht, refused to order more school funding the last time the court had a chance to address school finance.
This was in 2016, when the high court overturned a ruling by a state district judge who had ordered the Legislature to make significant improvements in how public education was funded.
With Hecht participating, the high court admitted that the school finance system was awful. But the judicial hand-wringing – a hollow attempt to express empathy for school children and parents — was meaningless because the court concluded the system didn’t violate the state constitution. That took the justices’ political allies in the governor’s office and the Legislature off the hook to make improvements.
Sure enough, the Legislature did nothing to improve education funding during the 2017 session. Only after educators voted in large numbers in 2018 and replaced a dozen anti-education House members and two senators with education friendly successors did Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature make improved education funding a priority during the 2019 session.
They increased funding by several billion dollars for classroom programs and teacher pay raises, a nice down payment on real school finance reform.
This week, I noticed a newspaper editorial endorsing Hecht for reelection, suggesting in a very confusing way that Hecht and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a bad school finance system had somehow led to the bipartisan decision to increase school funding three years later.
Don’t bother to try to figure out that line of thought because the conclusion is wrong. The Supreme Court obviously had nothing to do with the Legislature’s decision to finally tackle school finance reform. The Legislature improved school funding in 2019 only because educators voted in large numbers in 2018, threw out some legislative obstructionists and replaced them with pro-education lawmakers.
Educators and parents also need a Texas Supreme Court that will hold the governor’s and the Legislature’s feet to the fire on funding and other critical education issues. Hecht has shown he won’t do that, but his main opponent, Amy Clark Meachum, will.
Meachum is an experienced civil district court judge and the mother of three public school students. She knows that 5.5 million school kids need more than a court’s empathy.