30 August 2014 at 11:24:41 AM
Texas Tribune (look at this link also for PDF links to the actual judgements and court opinion)
In an almost 400-page opinion released Thursday, District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin said that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional not only because of inadequate funding and flaws in the way it distributes money to districts, but also because it imposes a de facto state property tax. Certain to be appealed by the state, the lawsuit that arose after lawmakers cut roughly $5.4 billion from state public education funding in 2011 will now continue to the Texas Supreme Court.
Even with nine Republican justices, it's difficult given prior Supreme Court rulings on school finance to see how the court can uphold the current system.
So,, does this insinuate that Republicans as a party would try to stiff public education? Yup. Why I'm Not A Republican.
Incidentally, kudos to Wayne Rotan for taking a strong stand about what was going on in 2010.
***Here is part of Judge Dietz' comments p 4
What is the problem in education? Well, it's more complicated than what I'm about to say, but I think I provide a good starting point for discussion. First, I would point out that we are not now producing college and career ready students in the opinion of many of our political and business leaders. I would further point out that the US was ranked 17th in the latest authoritative global survey of education, ranking behind Finland, South Korea, Japan, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada. I woudl point out in the in the US with our 17th position rank, Texas is in the bottom half of the 50 states. Finally, I would point out the simple truth, we are in competition with 195 other nations and their economies. If I ask the 20 million Texans who are not in school right now whether or not they agree that we should have more rigorous and challenging standards for our education system, what would their answer be? I believe a vast majority of Texans would say "Yes" and that for our students to successfully compete in the future, we must have tougher higher standards now...
So with this vast majority of Texans in support of higher standards, I know say "Great, we're going to have to develop a new curriculum, we have to substantially upgrade our technology in schools, we have to increase training for teachers, we have to hire some new teachers in complex content areas that we will be teaching and we have to provide more tutoring and remediation to our challenging population. We need to have evaluation and accountability to make sure we are meeting our goals concerning these increased standards. Finally, we need some public outreach to make sure the parents buy into this new program. I think we can do all that for an additional $2000 per student or in other words, an additional $10-11 Billion Dollars. You support this tax increase, don't you?"
Suddenly my vast majority becomes a minority. Now what I begin to hear from my vast majority is "you can't solve the problems of education by throwing money at it". As the economists put it, there is no free lunch. We either want the increased standards and are willing to pay the price or we don't. However, as the economists point out, there is a cost to acting, namely the tax increase and there is a cost to not acting, namely loss of competitive positions. So, we as a state and as a nation are wrestling with this question of priorities and our leaders are looking for direction from you, the public.
It might be useful to review why we support free public education, in the first place. I think there are three primary reasons why we support education- civic, altruistic, and economic.
The civic reasons are stated quite clearly in our 1876 Constitution. "A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of free public schools". Article VII of Texas Constitution. The Texas Constitution states a shared truth that education of all is necessary to preserve our rights and liberties.
Our altruistic reasons, the reasons that four-fifths of Texans shoulder the responsibility of educating the other fifth of our population, are, I believe, because we collectively realize the role of education in our own lives. We realize that others provided for us when we were children. We realize that children are without means to secure their education. Just as others provided for us when we were in school, now is hte time we provide for others.
Finally, are the economic reasons for free public education. It is a fact that the more educated we are, the greater our income will be. The greater our income as a state, the fewer citizens need public assistance. With greater income, the lower the crime rate. Likewise, the more educated we are, the more we spend on goods and services of others; the more we spend, the more vibrant is our economy. The more vibrant our economy is, the more we are able to attract desirable business to our state. Eight years ago, at the conclusion of a previous school finance case, I said that education costs money but that ignorance costs more money. I also said that it is the people of Texas who must set the standards, make the sacrifice, and give direction to their leaders as to what kind of education system they want. I said that the problems only get worse the longer we wait. I said then and I repeat today, the time to speak is now.
Few other interesting things from the findings of facts. Go read the timeline for the Texas Lege cutting out money. One of the things that helped them in 2009 was FEDERAL STIMULUS MONEY, that includes 5.8 billion specifically earmarked for education. When the stimulus went away in 2011, the Texas Lege cut funding for public education.
FOF 37: The State was able to avoid the consequences of its actions (and inaction) in the 2009 legislative session, by relying on the infusion of approximately $12 billon in federal stimulus funds.... This included $5.8 billion earmarked specifically for education, while state general revenue support for public education actually declined by about $3.2 billion for the 2010-11 biennuium.
FOF 38: In the 82nd legislative session, beginning in January 2011, federal stimulus funds had disappeared. Rather than take action to close the structural deficit and revise the funding system to ensure that is is "structured, operated, and funded so that it can accomplish its purpose for all Texas children", the Legislature significantly cut funding for public education
Wow. Go read the discussion about the STAAR test and distinctions between *college readiness* and *basic standard that must be met to even graduate from high school*.
FOF 102 p 44 -The increased rigor of the STAAR assessment system poses significant hurdles to high school graduation for many students. After the first two years of STAAR exams, hundreds of thousands of students had failed to meet even the lower , phase-in standard on at least one test. ... Performance on the STAAR retests was also worse than performance on TAKS retests. Waiting for school districts to make slow progress in improving the passing rates is not an option for the hundreds of thousands of ninth and tenth graders who are no longer on track to graduate because of their performance on EOC exams.
FoF 109 In light of the above, the Court finds that expectation for students and schools have been substantially heightened and that performance against these heightened standards reveals a current crisis. While HB5 reduced the number of EOC exams that students must pass, it did not eliminate the dire situation presented by hundreds of thousands of the states 2012-13 ninth and tenth graders being off track to graduate for failutre to pass still required EOC exams. It also did nothing to reduce the costs for school districts to provide all of their students with an opportunity to achieve the standards and graduate from high school college and career-ready.
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