Will legislators finally fix it?
Tuesday’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of Texas’ school finance system elicited a lot of excitement, if not surprise. Judge John Dietz ended a 12-week slog through testimony from rich districts, poor districts, parents, business owners and plenty of school-finance experts to conclude the State simply did not provide enough money to fund public school districts equitably or fairly. Dietz, a state judge who made a similar ruling in 2005, echoed his prior pronouncement, stating “There is no free lunch… We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't." The question whether Texans in fact do want increased standards, and how to pay for them, now returns to the Legislature.
While many expected this ruling from Dietz, what happens next is anyone’s guess. Legislators are split along party lines over beginning school-finance discussions promptly, as Democrat state senators like Carlos Uresti and Leticia Van de Putte have called for, or putting them off. The State attorney’s general office, headed by Republican Greg Abbot, is expected to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, and many Senate and House Republicans, like State Senator Donna Campbell, have indicated they would like to wait on the state Supreme Court verdict.
“I think they must not have children in [public] school,” Representative Mike Villarreal said bluntly when asked why his colleagues in the House may want to wait, noting that he has two young children currently in San Antonio public schools.