After continually under-funding public education, and then cutting $5 billion from K-12 in 2011, the Republican-led Texas Government was sued by a lot of school districts. Today, the Republicans were handed a huge loss by a district judge in Austin. The judge ruled that the way the state of Texas finances education is unconstitutional. The Republicans will likely appeal, since they support cutting K-12 funding.
Specifically, as reported by the Trib:
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.
Judge Dietz went on to explain the best reasons to support public education.
“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 the time when we provide for others,” he said, going on to describe the societal benefits of a well-educated population: lower crime rates, fewer people who need public assistance and a greater state income.”
The education commissioner Michael Williams, a Republican, spoke against the ruling, stating that judges shouldn’t be deciding school finance. Well, judges wouldn’t be needed if Republicans weren’t hell-bent on violating a child’s right to an education as specified in the Texas Constitution by cutting funding. So, whether it is Rick Perry appointees or other right-wing elected Republicans mouthing off against the ruling, the bottom line is that they voted to cut public education funding and have been starving K-12 (and higher education for that matter) for decades.
After Dan Patrick, a Houston state senator who is running for Lt. Governor, tried to cover up his vote against restoring some of the K-12 funding in the last legislative session by saying he chaired the committee that voted to restore the funding, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte called Patrick out in a “hypocrisy alert.”
In 2013, Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said, “Patrick was directly responsible for these same education programs not being funded…Such revisionism cannot go unchallenged.” [Texas Tribune, 06/21/13]
Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, released the following statement:
“I echo Senator Williams’ sentiments. Dan Patrick was directly responsible for these education cuts, and his revisionism will not go unchallenged. Dan Patrick has shown time and time again that he does not value our neighborhood schools — he showed that when he voted twice against Texas students.
“It is time to accept responsibility and lead. We do not need another court to tell us how to do our jobs. Texans expect a quality education for their children — no excuses, no delays. It is time to put Texas first. As Lieutenant Governor, I will do exactly that.”
And there’s no doubt in my mind that Leticia Van de Putte will take the lead to protect public education and make it a top priority of the Texas legislature.
Elections matter, just like our public schools matter. If you don’t want public schools closing, or if you don’t want your kid in an overcrowded classroom, then you better make it your business to be registered to vote and show up on November 4.
Wendy Davis, Democrat for Governor: “Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”
State Senator Jose Rodriguez (D) El Paso: Our state has not lived up to its constitutional obligation to offer equitable and adequate educational opportunities to all Texans. Today’s court ruling is yet another opportunity to do better, especially with the 84thLegislature right around the corner. The state’s attorneys should end their battle against the Texas constitution — and our students, parents, and teachers — and allow us to move forward on a legislative solution to this issue, which is of such vital importance for the future of Texas.
State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D) Houston: “Today is a victory for the school children of Texas. Judge Dietz simply confirmed what we’ve all known for years; that the state refuses time and time again to do what’s right for our children and the future of our state.”
“Today’s ruling reaffirms that Republican leadership has created an unconstitutional system which values some children more than others, yet short-changes them all.”