Update on Lawsuit

There has not been much discussion in the media recently about the lawsuit that was filed by the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition (and other groups) regarding state funding. After the recent legislative session, Judge Dietz (the residing judge in the case) approved a motion to allow additional testimony based upon funding levels being increased by the legislature. While the additional state funds might provide relief from the adequacy claim (adequacy is defined as sufficient funds to provide a basic education to students), the actions of the legislature did nothing to address the equity claim that has been the cornerstone of the Coalition’s argument. Below is an article from the Equity Center that describes one of the major shortcomings of the current school finance system – The Cost of Education Index:

Earlier this month Dr. Jerry Burkett wrote an article – How Much Does Texas Public Education Cost? Texas has no idea – in which he examines how much has changed in our everyday world since Texas last updated the Cost of Education Index (CEI) in 1991.

 Burkett says, “It’s 1991 and the New York Giants win the Super Bowl 20-19
after a missed Buffalo Bills field goal. Seinfeld debuted on TV, Dances with Wolves won Best Picture, and the U.S. minimum wage goes from $3.80 to $4.25 per hour. Gas prices average $1.12…and the average person makes around $29,430 per year.

 That was also the year [using 1989 data] the state of Texas updated its Cost of Education Index (CEI).

Today, gas averages $3.36 [ha!], the New York Giants have won two more Super Bowls, and minimum wage is $7.25 [with talking about an increase as high as $10.00 an hour]. Seinfeld has been off the air for 15 years and now rules
syndication, the average salary in the United States is $46,326 and Kevin Costner hasn’t made a decent movie since (unless you actually liked Waterworld).

However, even more has changed in regards to Texas’ public schools over the last 22 years. We’ve seen our overall student population increase by over 47%; our poverty levels have increased to 30%; the number of students eligible for the free or reduced lunch program is now over 60% as of 2011; and the number of students enrolled in a bilingual/ESL program has increased from 9.7% to 16.2% as of 2011.

 The  increase in population, rigor and ever-changing needs of our students were
crucial cornerstones of our lawsuit and the driving force behind our legislative efforts earlier this year. Despite the Legislators initial hesitancy to discuss or work on a solution for our school funding dilemma, they eventually restored $3.4 billion of the $5.4 billion 2011 cuts to education and while this is a step in the right direction, it did not solve the problem.

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