Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Supreme Irony

The Texas Supremes ruled in the landmark school finance court case yesterday. Their 7-1 decision was a mixed bag.

They ruled that the system of local property taxes in which just about every district in the state imposes the same tax (the maximum allowed $1.50 per $100 of valuation) is unconstitutional. The Texas Constitution specifically outlaws a statewide property tax. They got that part right.

Then they ruled that the public school system is adequate. This point is arguable, but I can understand that decision. But they also ruled that facilities funding is equitable. This is beyond ridiculous. It is indefensible and, in the long run, this Court will lose a lot of credibility with the public on this one. There is no reasonable definition of equitable that could allow for the rich suburban palaces of learning (see Highland Park) and the dilapidated hovels that pass for "facilities" in some of Texas's rural and urban communities to be considered as substantially equal. It's a mind-bending stretch-- a stretch that makes this state's High Court seem, well, high. Or just stupid.

Still, because the Supremes ruled that the basic mechanism for funding schools (property taxes) is unconstitutional, the whole system will have to be overhauled. What comes out the other end of this judicial-legislative death dance is anyone's guess. My hunch is that I won't like it. Whatever that solution might be, though, the Court gave the Lege until June 1 to figure it out.


Anonymous Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

One question and two cvomments:...

In Texas, is the school-dedicated property tax levied on residential property exclusively, or something else?

According to the __Digest of Education Statistics__, less than half of the Texas K-12 education budget derives from local (property) taxes.


Districts will lose more than they gain if the pursuit of "equity" impels your legislature to further centralize education decision-making.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Amerloc said...


As it is in most states, public school financing in Texas is perhaps best described as convoluted. I'm not the best summarizer of the system, as I've only lived here a short time, so I'll let others correct me where I'm wrong: property taxes are collected on property, residential or other. Of course, property values effect property taxes, and residential property tends to have a higher per-square-foot value than other property.

That, however, was not really the issue in this case. As I read it, a state property tax is illegal in TX, and the argument was that by capping the school districts' ability to tax at $1.50 per $100 of value, the legislature had in effect caused a state property tax (because due to inflation, every district would eventually have to tax at the full buck-and-a-half).

I almost want to move back to Nevada, where the system was more let-the-tourists-pay-for-it-and-we'll-keep-local-taxes-down.

But then I'd miss my grand-kids...

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, amerloc,

It seems to me that in a State where schools obtain their support from local property taxes, including non-residential property, somewhere you would have some school district containing $ billions worth of oil refinery or some such, serving a couple hundred poor workers' families.

School can be expensive; education is potentially cheap. Beyond some rather low level, money doesn't matter much. The public-sector unions' complaints about "equity" promote aggregation of resources and the reassignment of control from parents to remote authorities. This benefits organized interests (public-sector unions and other contractors to the system) but students, parents, and real classroom teachers lose.

"Research on victims of violence at school suggests that repeated victimization has detrimental effects on a child's emotional and social development...[Karen Brockenbrough, Dewey G. Cornell, Ann B. Loper, "Aggressive Attitudes Among Victims of Violence at School", __Education and the Treatment of Children__, V. 25, #3, Aug., 2002]

"Results showed that the over-representation of Black males that has been cited consistently in the literature begins at the elementary school level and continues through high school. Black females also were suspended at a much higher rate than White or Hispanic females at all three school levels." [Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, Howard M. Knoff; __Education and the Treatment of Children__, V. 26, #1, Feb. 2003.

http://www.rru.com/~meo/hs.minski.html (One page. Marvin Minsky comment on school).




8:49 AM  

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