By LIBBY CLUETT
In a landmark decision, Judge John Dietz, of the 250th District Court in Austin, declared Monday that state funding for Texas public schools is unconstitutional. On the following day, Mineral Wells residents and school staff heard presenters tell how dire the case is regarding public school funding.
In his remarks Monday, Judge Dietz noted that students in Texas and the U.S. will need to meet higher standards because, he said, “We are in competition with 195 other nations and their economies.”
But with this competition, the vast majority of Texans would agree, he said, with the need for higher standards, new curriculum, upgraded technology in schools, increased training for teachers, hiring new teachers in complex content areas, providing more tutoring and remediation, adding evaluation and accountability and public outreach for parents.
But he said if he told them, “I think we can do all of that for an additional $2,000 per student, or, in other words, an additional $10 [billion] to $11 billion. You support this tax increase, don't you?” He said the previous “vast majority” shrinks to a minority.
“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 position,” Dietz said.
He said Texans support free public education for three primary reasons: “why we support education – civic, altruistic and economic.”
To illustrate the civic reason, Dietz read Article VII of the 1876 Texas Constitution, which states, “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.”
For the economic rationale, Dietz said, “It is a fact that the more educated we are, the greater income will be. The greater our income is as a state, the fewer citizens need public assistance [and] … 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.”