The big education news today comes out of Texas, where the State Supreme Court ruled that the system that Texas uses to fund public schools is unconstitutional. According to today’s New York Times, Texas spends too little and doesn’t distribute the money fairly. Echoes of Abbott here. New Jersey was way ahead of its time when our Supreme Court ruled similarly, mainly because school costs were collected locally; thus, wealthy districts spent far more than poor districts. In 1976, in response to the Abbott ruling, a reluctant Legislature instituted a state income tax in order compensate poor districts and equalize school funding.
The Dallas Morning News reports that school spending continues to drop and this year Texas schools will only spend $8,908 per pupil. The national average is $11,463. New Jersey’s cost per pupil varies from district to district but comes in at around $17,000 per pupil.
From the New York Times:
In 2005, [Texas Supreme Court] Judge Dietz found the previous funding system unconstitutional and directed the Legislature to devise a new one. At issue are $5.4 billion in cuts to education the Legislature imposed in 2011. Texas does not have a state income tax, meaning it relies on local property taxes to finance schools. But lawyers for about 600 public school districts said the bottom 15 percent of the state’s poorest districts tax average 8 cents more than the wealthiest 15 percent of districts but receive about $43,000 less per classroom.
The Times speculates that this ruling will force the State to overhaul its whole system of school funding.