SAN ANTONIO, TX – MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) welcomes Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ directive to his colleagues to review key aspects of Texas’ school finance system and to make recommendations that would improve its efficiency and educational quality.
“While the Texas Supreme Court got the law woefully wrong, the Court was plainly right about the need for significant change in the state school funding system,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “The legislature should act swiftly and broadly in reforming this critical system.”
MALDEF calls on lawmakers to capitalize on the opportunity in this directive by creating a school funding system that adequately and equitably funds all schools so all Texas children can meet the high expectations lawmakers and future employers have set for them.
Although the Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that the state’s school finance system satisfied minimal constitutional requirements, it also declared that the children of Texas “deserve transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid” and called on state leaders to revamp the system to meet the needs of the 21st century.
“Rather than celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision as a victory, state leaders should heed the Court’s call to do right by Texas’ most at-risk students,” said MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel Marisa Bono. “Texas is better than basic minimum requirements, and its students deserve better.”
To answer the court’s call and the task set forth by Speaker Straus, state lawmakers should increase per-pupil funding (or the “basic allotment”); increase the funding weights assigned to students with special needs, including economically disadvantaged and English language learner (ELL) students; and adjust the Cost of Education Index (CEI).
The Legislature has not adjusted the weights for economically disadvantaged and ELL students in the funding formula since 1984. In fact, even then, the state’s School Finance Working Group – composed of members of nearly every educational organization in Texas – recommended twice the amount that lawmakers ultimately adopted as its funding weights for those students.
The CEI has not been reviewed since 1990, despite the fact that Texas has seen significant demographic changes, population growth, and shifts in the cost of labor and housing over the last three and a half decades. Thus, MALDEF urges Texas lawmakers to update this critical index.
The long overdue review and update will help ensure that Texas school districts receive the basic funding they need to attract and keep high-quality teachers and acquire updated textbooks.