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  • Tim Condon
    The following is an editorial from today s Wall Street Journal, entitled Texas School Lesson. The Texas Supreme Court s school funding decision has major
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2005
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      The following is an editorial from today's Wall Street Journal,
      entitled "Texas School Lesson." The Texas Supreme Court's school funding
      decision has major implications for education everywhere, not just in
      Texas. It would be a priceless gift if the New Hampshire Supreme Court
      would see and understand the lessons reflected in the Texas case, and
      reverse the "judicial fiat" Claremont decisions that have wrought havoc
      with school funding for the past several years. In New Hampshire, it is
      also notable that former state representative David Scott, the author of
      the school choice/voucher law that failed by a single vote in the NH
      General Court two years ago, has just been elected to the City Council
      of the seacoast area town of Dover. ----Tim Condon


      "TEXAS SCHOOL LESSON"

      The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the
      statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was
      surprising and welcome was the Court's unanimous ruling that the Texas
      school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the
      funding "adequacy" requirements of the state constitution. Most
      remarkable of all was the court's declaration that "more money does not
      guarantee better schools or more educated students."

      Think about that one for a second. To our knowledge, this is the first
      time anywhere in the country that the judiciary has flatly rejected the
      core doctrine of the education establishment that more dollars equal
      better classroom performance. And it is potentially very good news for
      students, especially those from the poorest neighborhoods, because it
      shifts the policy emphasis from money to achievement. Better send the
      paramedics to check for heart failure at National Education Association
      headquarters.

      Even more encouraging, the court endorsed more choices for parents and
      the state's 4.3 million school kids. It said flatly: "Public education
      could benefit from more competition." The Texas Public Policy
      Foundation, which provided much of the academic research for the court,
      looked at the Edgewood school district in San Antonio, where donors
      started a privately financed voucher program. The results indicate that
      not only have the kids with the vouchers benefited, but so have kids in
      the public schools that are now forced to compete for students.

      We hope that courts and school boards across the country study the Texas
      decision -- including its comments on school financing: "The
      Constitution does not require a particular solution," Judge Nathan Hecht
      wrote for the majority. "We leave such matters to the discretion of the
      Legislature." In other words, it's not the proper role of the judiciary
      to intervene in the operation or financing of the public schools.

      That kind of judicial thinking tends to be the exception these days.
      Over the past two decades, courts in more than 30 states have intervened
      in education policy and ordered billions of dollars spent on schools in
      the name of boosting student performance and ensuring equitable
      financing. The result has been an avalanche of new spending on
      inner-city and rural schools, but, alas, not much measurable achievement
      by the kids who were supposed to be helped.

      In one of the most notorious cases, in Kansas City, Missouri in the
      1980s, a judge issued an edict requiring a $1 billion tax hike to help
      the failing inner-city schools. This raised expenditures to about
      $14,000 per student, or double the national average, but test scores
      continued to decline. Even the judge later admitted that he had blundered.

      The hope now is that, as Republican Governor Rick Perry and the state
      legislature search for a new school financing mechanism next year, they
      will accept the court's invitation to open up the school system to a
      wide range of options including charters, vouchers, scholarships and
      rewards for quality, such as teacher pay for performance. If so, the
      Lone Star State, once the home of some of the worst public schools in
      the country, could become the national model for educational excellence.



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