Texas Education Review
Every student in Texas public schools deserves to have the same resources devoted to her public education, taking into full consideration the special needs of the child and the district in which she attends school. Alternatively, every student deserves to attend school in a school district that can offer the same resources at any tax rate as any other district in the state, taking into consideration the special needs of the district and the students attending school in the district. These are both classic equity standards. The student-focused standard is described as “student equity” and the district-focused standard is described as “taxpayer equity.” If all districts have the same or similar tax rates, the two standards are the same.
The judgment of the Texas district court in the first Edgewood case in 1987 ordered the legislature to implement a plan that met the stringent and enforceable standard that all districts have the same ability as other districts to provide resources for their students at any tax rate. In 1989, in its seminal opinion holding the Texas school finance system unconstitutional, the Texas Supreme Court weakened this standard to “substantially the same" resources.
In this essay, I argue that the “same” standard is the best for Texas’s future. I will describe the significant barriers to reaching this standard; but the barriers are not insurmountable, even within the realities of Texas budget constraints. The primary barriers are history, demography, politics, economy, and the judicial system. These are certainly not all the barriers, and there is significant overlap and causal connection among them. Yet, unpacking these barriers should help us understand the barriers and possible ways over, around, or through them. Texas also has opportunities that will allow us to reach a truly equitable school finance system. I conclude this essay on this positive note.
Albert H. Kauffman, The Barriers and Route to Texas School Finance Equity, 1 Tex. Ed. R. online 27 (2013).