By the time the issue makes it to the Legislature again, the current funding system will have been in place for 10 years.
I guess that’s a good run for a school finance system, but I still question the need for wholesale changes.
First, state District Judge John Deitz wrote in his Aug. 28 ruling about schools being underfunded, considering they are under more pressure to meet tougher standards.
What tougher standards is Deitz talking about? Maybe those standards that were rolled back last year at the behest of Texas superintendents?
We also have candidates running for office who promise to eliminate more tests and roll standards back even further this coming legislative session.
That undercuts the argument that schools need more money to meet tougher standards.
And, what about the new numbers from the Texas Education Agency? The agency says 90 percent of school districts and 85 percent of campuses are meeting state standards.
If we are really that successful, then it would seem that our students are flourishing under the current system.
The state constitution talks about a funding system that ensures a general diffusion of knowledge. If 85 percent of schools and the students that go to them are meeting state standards, that says to me “mission accomplished.”
Of course, we all know that those numbers are overblown, considering only about 20 to 25 percent of our students graduate career- or college-ready, which should be the standard by which we hold our schools accountable.
There is also the fact that surprised many lawmakers in a recent hearing: We have not increased the passing score for the STAAR test in the last four years.
To put that another way: We have never increased the passing scores for STAAR, some of which are as low as 37 percent. That also takes away from the argument that schools are struggling to meet tougher standards, because the standards have never been toughened.
It’s ironic at least and hypocritical at worst that many argue that since schools are struggling to meet standards no one is expected to meet, they need more money.
The truth is, we have been throwing more money at the system for years and results are still low.
Yes, the Legislature made cuts in 2011, but most of those were restored in 2013. The point is there has to be some other answer out there, because money alone will not solve the problem.
It is my hope that the Supreme Court will not look favorably on this ruling as a whole. I believe we have enough money in the system to educate our children.
What we must do is spend it smartly and hold schools accountable for results.
That means adopting an accountability system that will give us a true and accurate snapshot of the job we are doing, not turn our campuses into a glorified kid’s soccer league where everyone gets a trophy.
The future of our economy depends on students who get a great public education and graduate with a diploma that means they are ready for a career or college, not a diploma that might as well be a participation ribbon.
Bill Hammond is chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business.