Pláticas en Acción
Americans agree that a child’s future should not depend on his or her heritage, parents’ income, or neighborhood. Our sense of justice insists that America be the land of opportunity where all citizens are considered equal.
A fundamental part of this belief is the idea that all children must have access to quality education. But how we carry this out has led to an ongoing debate. There are still people who have difficulty accepting that access should be relatively equal for all children.
What is the issue?
For many years in Texas, there were tremendous differences in the amount of money available to educate children in public schools. The quality of each child’s education depended on the wealth of their community and varied by thousands of dollars from school to school. Prior to 1995, some of the wealthiest school systems spent $10,000 per student and had low local school tax rates. Poorer school systems could only spend $3,000 per pupil and had much higher taxes.
Wealthy districts could tax low and provide quality education. They could hire the best teachers, administrators and support staff. And they could build spacious, state-of-the-art school facilities.
Poorer schools had to tax high, but these resources are not enough for a quality education. They employed more non-certified teachers, had over-crowded schools, and lost their better teachers and administrators to nearby wealthy schools. They also had buildings in need of major repairs just to make them safe.
The Texas Supreme Court, in 1991, ruled that public education as a state (not a local) responsibility must address these injustices. The court required that education be more equitably funded in schools around the state.
To bring about greater equity and equalization, the state provided more money to low-wealth school districts. It also set limits on how much tax revenue the wealthiest school systems could raise and required to share their resources to help fund public education statewide.
Texas lawmakers also increased accountability for all public schools. Since these major reforms took effect, Texas has made important progress in quality public education for all children.
Texas is beginning to reap many benefits from its recent commitment to equalizing education funding for all of its children. Student achievement has improved, taxpayers are more equally sharing the cost of paying for public schools, and businesses are beginning to see the results of better-prepared graduates.
In Texas, a small but powerful group fights to return Texas to an unequal system of funding education. This system re-creates a two-tiered, unjust public school system, that would provide poor or mediocre education for most children and excellent education for a select few.
What needs to be done?
Texans need to say no to those who will weaken the system, privileging a few children to the detriment of many. To go back to the old funding system is to go back to an unjust funding system. Texas and its school children deserve better. The future of our state demands better.
The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is a vanguard leadership development and research team working with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. IDRA, 5835 Callaghan Road, Suite 350, San Antonio, Texas 78228-1190; 210444-1710; email@example.com; www.idra.org. © 2003 by IDRA. • Parent Information Resource Center at IDRA •