TEXAS SCHOOL SYSTEM 9
Inany advanced and informed democracy, education is the bedrock andbridge to providing its people with lifelong opportunities. Texas isno exception and greatly depends on its current public school systemto develop a well-equipped future workforce which in turn willpromote prosperity in the whole state. However, such a dream islikely to be invalid for the current and next generations of youngTexans if the state continues to fail in ensuring that there is theadequate and equitable financing of public education. The foundingfathers of the US such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washingtonfirmly believed in the diffusion of knowledge as the surest way toguarantee public happiness and the nation’s future prosperity henceTexas Constitution believes in education and identifies it as a rightentitled to every Texan child. Through Article 7, Section 1 of theConstitution, the general diffusion of knowledge is identified as afundamental key to safeguarding the rights and liberties of Texans.Further, it states that the state’s legislation has an obligationto put in place suitable mechanisms that will ensure maintenance andsupport for an efficient free public school system. Article 7 Section3 gives more provision for funding the public school system byallowing the legislature to pass particular laws that aim atincreasing the revenues available to State Board of Education forefficient provision of education. Thus the legislative steps caninclude the authorization of ad valorem tax to be charged andretrieved from all state’s school districts for maintaining freepublic education. Admittedly, this provision has resulted in thesharp division because of local revenue disparities. Districts withvaluable commercial assets have higher tax bases and subsequently canbuild more classrooms, attract and maintain better teachers and evenconstruct better sports facilities compared to those schools in lowtax bases making actualization of the general diffusion of knowledgeas outlined in Section 1 impossible (Saltman,2015).
Understandingthe General Diffusion of Knowledge
Thegeneral diffusion of knowledge according to Article VII section 3 isdetermines that it is an obligation of the state to ensure all Texanchildren have access to quality education because that is theingredient for safeguarding their welfare and preserving their rightsand liberties. Therefore, the State Board of Education has a duty toensure that all Texan children can demonstrate competent abilities inreading, writing, problem-solving, critical thinking, computing andcommunication on a wide area of disciplines. Essentially, the systemshould prepare students for postsecondary education and employment.Subsequently, Texas legislature is constitutionally free to determinehow public education in its district schools are conducted and fundedas long as the proposed measures are consistent with efficiency,adequacy, and suitability tests that Section 1 lists. Texas SupremeCourt in a bid to help the legislature had defined Efficiency toremain the same as it did in 1875 when the constitution was firstwritten. Hence it means productive or efficient utilization ofresources to produce expected results with minimal wastage. Further,efficiency is categorized as Explicit for the qualitative componentthat comprehensively assesses whether the system meets efficiencydefinition. On the other hand, Implicit category refers to thefinancial or quantitative efficiency component it is inputs-orientedhence crucial in understanding equity within the system. The secondtest is Adequacy which is only achieved if the legislations enablesthe accomplishment of the general diffusion of knowledge. The thirdis the Suitability test which constitutionally obligates that thepublic education system is structured, operated and financed toattain its primary objective to Texan young generation. However, thegeneral diffusion of knowledge cannot be fully realized because ofmarked funding disparities between schools in affluent and poordistricts which is a consequence of poor legislative measures overthe years. Subsequently, it has led to perpetual litigations againstthe state over funding disparities that ultimately if not solvedperpetuates education discrimination based on what part of Texas thechild is born.
Discussionon San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez case
Fundingpublic school systems for decades has been biased because it isfinanced by both the state and the revenues collected from eachdistrict. The San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez remains alandmark case because the US Supreme Court overturned thedetermination of Texas school financing system as unconstitutional bya district court. Rodriguez, the plaintiff in the case, alleged thatdespite the state taxing the poor residents of Edgewood district morecompared to wealthy residents of Alamo Heights district, they stillcouldn’t collect enough local revenues to fund their schools.Essentially, the state levied heavy taxes on the poor districts butprovided inadequate funding since they could not raise sufficientlocal revenues compared to rich districts that were a high tax basebecause of expensive commercial property. The majority of students inEdgewood district are Hispanic, and earlier in 1968 they hadconducted a walk-out and demonstration against the lack of qualifiedteachers in insufficient supplies in their schools.
Thedemonstration by students induced concerned parents such as DemetrioRodriguez to file a class-action suit against the state. Initially,the Texas system of funding public schools was declared asunconstitutional for violating Equal Protection clause of theconstitution. However, the Supreme Court on appeal ruled that thereare no constitutional provisions that obligate the state to ensureequitable school funding. While representing Rodriguez and parents,the Mexican American Legal and Defense Fund emphasized and attemptedto lead the Supreme Court to perceive wealth as a suspectclassification, education as a fundamental right, Texas schoolfinancing as racial classification and that the system had norational basis. Eventually, the Supreme Court determined that theTexan public schools funding system does not favor any suspect classover the other nor does the system impermissibly violate any“fundamental” rights in the Fourteenth Amendment. The 21st March1973 ruling had significant impact as it determined that Texaslegislature should solve the school funding disparity. The rulingalso relieved the state from being obligated to fund poorer schoolsmore besides making it harder to litigate on other groups’ behalfif they faced discrimination by the system.
Discussionon Edgewood ISD v. Kirby case
Althoughthe loss of Rodriguez v. San Antonio was a major blow to manyresidents of the poor districts, the Edgewood ISD v. Kirby has beeninstrumental in advocating for the equitable financing of publicschools. The landmark case was filed in 1984 by Mexican AmericanLegal Defense and Education Fund against William Kirby, the educationcommissioner. The plaintiffs alleged that the school funding systemwas discriminative hence violated four key principles of theConstitution in the provision of efficient education. The case beganwith 21 parents as the plaintiffs, but later many parents, studentsand 67 school districts joined. The plaintiffs challenged the state’ssystem of funding that largely relied on local property taxes thatlead to education inequality within Texas. Subsequently, in 1989, theTexas Supreme Court determined that property wealth per student was$38,854 in Edgewood ISD but $570,109 for the wealthy Alamo HeightsISD student. The marked wealth disparities thus played a factor inthe rich and poor schools to construct appropriate facilities, hireand maintain good teachers and acquire other essential supplies.Therefore, MALDEF in the 1984 brief, noted that the gaps resulted ina violation of equal opportunity given the complex and technologicalsociety as expressed in the state’s education clause. A month afterfiling the petition, the legislature passed a law to increase fundingto poor schools, MALDEF perceived the move as intolerably illegalthus refilled its lawsuit to seek for better monetary reforms.District Judge Harley Clark on 29th April 1987 ruled for plaintiffsafter determining the funding system unconstitutional ordering thelegislature to develop a more fair formula by September of 1989.However, the state appealed, and on December 14th, 1988, the rulingwas overturned by the Third Court of Appeals through a two to onedecision after excluding education as a basic right and affirmed theconstitutionality of the state funding system. The plaintiffs on 5thJuly 1989 challenged the ruling at the Texas Supreme Court, and on2nd October, through a unanimous 9-0 decision, the court sided withthe plaintiffs and maintained that the legislature formulates anequitable funding system by 1990-91 school calendar year.
On1st June 1990 following the inability of the legislature to pass anyfunding bill, an alternative plan designed by Texas Supreme Courtcalled the “Robin Hood” plan that would have transferred fundsfrom rich schools to poor schools was provided. However, thelegislature on 6th June 1990, passed a bill that could have raisedfunding to schools by $528 million. The plaintiffs were unsatisfiedstill after Governor Clements signed the bill into law and called foranother hearing. Two months after hearing MALDEF’s arguments, JudgeScott McCown affirmed that the new law failed to ensure equitableschool funding substantially and ordered the legislature to develop abetter system within a year. Governor Clement being shocked by thenew order appealed but lost on 22nd January 1991 as the Supreme Courtasserted that the new law failed to address the unfair system ofproperty tax fundamentally. Further, the court suggested to theconsolidation of the 1058 school districts to develop a fairdistribution scheme. The legislature was also given until 1st April1991 to establish an equitable final system. Under pressure from theSupreme Court, the legislature approved a reform bill thatconsolidated all the schools to form 188 County Education Districtsto ensure funding equity. On 15th April 1991, Governor Ann Richardssigned the bill into law. Under the new system, 57 wealthy schoolswere to lose more money hence appealed and challenged the legality ofthe law but Judge McCown upheld the law. In 1993 a multi-option planwas provided for the sending of money to help poorer schools, mergingthe wealthy tax base with poor districts, transfer of some commercialproperty to poor districts, consolidate voluntarily with otherdistricts or accept to educate students in other schools (Bosworth,2014).Governor Richards signed the bill into law and was accepted by JudgeMcCown. However, many poor schools challenged its constitutionality.Texas Supreme Court in 1995 upheld that constitutionality of theoption plan but called on the legislature still to develop a moreequitable funding system. Equitable funding of public schools is yetto be realized, in 2014, district court Judge John Dietz also ruledthat the system was unconstitutional as it provided insufficient andineffective public education. He also asserted that the only viablesolution has to come from the legislature.
PersonalEvaluation of the School Funding System
Frommy perspective, if we are ever to achieve equality in life then Ibelieve it has to begin with ensuring equality in education. Althoughincome disparity in a natural phenomenon in our society, when itcomes to education, it shouldn’t be a factor that impedes thesuccess of those from poor backgrounds. The Texan Constitutionbelieves in the general diffusion of knowledge as a key toprosperity. While we cannot blame parents and children from highertax bases for having better funding and facilities, I believe it isthe state to put in adequate measures that will ensure we achieve apublic school system that is similar and equal in all fronts. Assuch, I propose the state should not peg school funding to localproperty taxes it should fully fund the schools equally for us toattain the same standard of education throughout Texas.
Thecurrent legislature continues to put in new measures that seek toclose the gap in public schools funding by enacting bills thatprotect students particularly those from low tax districts. Forinstance, Legislator Bohac on 10thMarch 2017 filed bill 85R 12586 CAE-F that aims to ensure thatallotment technology and instructional instruments remain open to allstudents in accordance to the general diffusion of knowledge.Although the 85(R) HB 4140 bill has no co-sponsors if enacted onSeptember 1st, 2017, the law will ensure that all public schools areequally furnished with free instructional materials without chargingany fee on the student thereby protecting those from low-incomebackgrounds.
Ultimately,if we are to end the funding disparity in the public schools, thenthe legislature as retired Judge John Dietz determined must bewilling to pass laws that will ensure equal financing and subject thesystem to periodic reviews that take the ever increasing and complexdemands of education into consideration. Moreover, to end thedisparity the state should fully fund the education in all districtswithout relying on ad valorem tax if general diffusion of knowledgeas enshrined in the Texas Constitution is to be achieved.
Bosworth,M. H. (2014). Courtsas catalysts: State supreme courts and public school finance equity.SUNY Press.
Saltman,K. J. (2015). Capitalizingon disaster: Taking and breaking public schools.Routledge.