Back to School, Back to Court

Like many Texas parents, I’ve got that end-of-summer-vacation buzz – I’m ready for those school bells to ring!

As kids head back to school and parents breathe a sigh of relief, it’s comforting to know that the right to education is enshrined in the Texas Constitution. All Texas children deserve a fair chance to compete and succeed in life, and that means a high quality education. Unfortunately, whether or not your child attends a good school depends primarily on whether you live in a wealthy or poor community.

That’s why a state judge ruled last year that the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional. The state is failing to ensure that kids in one part of the state have a chance to get the same quality of education as kids in other areas. The case now heads to the Texas Supreme Court, which will hear arguments from both sides on September 1.

Why does school finance matter? Because we need educated Texans to ensure a strong future workforce in the Lone Star State. Yet in 2013, an unacceptable 72 percent of Texas fourth-graders did not read at grade level. Numbers like that won’t encourage employers to move to Texas and hire people, yet our economy depends on this hiring for Texas to continue to thrive.

The fact is, most of our schools do not share the economic growth experienced by the state. The Texas Education Agency reports that more than three million of Texas’ five million public school students are economically disadvantaged, and that number is growing. Yet state lawmakers don’t regularly update the school funding formulas or adjust them to keep up with inflation. Like Sisyphus rolling a giant boulder up a hill that keeps getting steeper, schools can’t keep up with increased demand.

I’m the daughter and granddaughter of teachers, so I’m grateful for hard-working Texas teachers who are doing their best with what they have. Just imagine how much more they could help all Texas students succeed if schools had the resources they need to meet the growing needs of our state.

As I brace myself for Algebra II jitters at home, I hope the Texas Supreme Court gets the math right on school finance. The future of Texas depends on it.

At the Center for Public Policy Priorities, we believe in a Texas that offers everyone the chance to compete and succeed in life. We envision a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure. We want the best Texas - a proud state that sets the bar nationally by expanding opportunity for all. CPPP is an independent public policy organization that uses data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We dare Texas to be the best state for hard-working people and their families.

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