August 28, 2014
The following is a joint statement issued by the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus following the school finance ruling by state District Judge John Dietz:
We as lawmakers bear the responsibility under the Texas Constitution to ensure children receive the knowledge they need to be thoughtful participants in our great state. But for too long now, those in control of the Capitol have neglected that constitutional duty by failing to provide adequate funding to school districts. Judge Dietz made that abundantly clear today when he ruled Texas’ school finance system has once again run afoul of the Constitution.
Texas’ school finance system is woefully out of date and everyone in the Capitol knows it. We also know how to fix the problems, but too many of our colleagues are reluctant to make difficult decisions about how to pay for those fixes. Instead, they will drag out this case and hope to get political cover from the Supreme Court before doing what is right.
“Do we really want to relegate our schoolchildren to an unconstitutional public education system for another two years? Our children should not suffer because those in control are too scared to lead,” said Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Other Senate Democrats also added their voices to the call for the Legislature to get to work:
|Sen. John Whitmire of Houston“The ruling confirms what most parents, teachers, and public education supporters have known for some time. Funding for our public schools is inadequate and the Legislature needs to step up to the plate and do its job to provide much needed funding and equity for our public schools.”||Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen“Our goal is to provide equal funding for each student regardless of where the student lives. Our current funding system is not accomplishing that goal. We cannot expect to succeed as a state if we do not make smart investments in our students, teachers, and schools.”|
|Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo“Judge Dietz’s ruling once again is telling us what we already know: Texas’ school finance system is unconstitutional and a disservice to Texas students. The legislature should meet its responsibility and fix the system during the legislative session that convenes on January 13. Doing so requires that we address not only inadequate education funding levels that have left our school districts without meaningful discretion in setting property tax rates, but also equity issues and outdated weights that impact negatively our ability to educate students with different needs.”||Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston“The legislature should treat the underfunding of our children’s schools like what it is: an emergency that must be solved immediately. In fact, there’s ample precedent for us working to solve this issue prior to the Texas Supreme Court weighing in. In 2004 and 2005, the last time the constitutionality of Texas’ school finance system was in court, the legislature worked on school finance for three special sessions and one regular session – all before the Supreme Court finally ruled the system was unconstitutional.”|
|Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio“How can we expect to educate our kids to enter the economy of tomorrow using a system of funding that is as inequitable, unconstitutional and inadequate today as it was 10 years ago.”||Sen. Royce West of Dallas“As a state, we have consistently chosen to underfund the educational needs of a student population that has reached historic levels of diversity At the same time, traditional public schools are being vilified by one means and then yet another. In such a scenario who will be the winner? It’s time to stop playing games with the future of Texas and properly fund our schools.”|
|Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston“Education is the most important investment our state can make. It is embarrassing that Texas continues to find themselves in court over and over again because we have failed to take proper care of our education system. Every child, regardless of whether they live in a rich community or a poor community should be treated fairly and have access to a premium education.”||Sen. José Rodríguez of El Paso“The current Texas public school funding system promotes unacceptable levels of inequity in funding between the state’s lowest and highest property wealth school districts, even though all Texas children are held to the same standards — and rightly so — when it comes to assessments. If the Legislature acts on today’s ruling, we will be one step closer to all children getting an equal chance of academic success regardless of what side of town your child goes to school.”|
The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, Sen. Royce West of Dallas, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, Sen. Wendy Davis of Ft. Worth, Sen. Jose Rodriguez of El Paso, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston.