April 26, 2009: Can we please stop robbing our children!

Can we please stop robbing our children! April 26, 2009

For too long the Texas Legislature has put education on the back burner. The proper and adequate funding of our public schools should be goal number one. Let's review. In Texas school districts are independent governmental entities. In other words they are their own taxing authorities just like the City of Houston v. the City of Dallas. Their budgets are made up mostly from the money they raise from the property taxes they levy. This funding mechanism has been insufficient to adequately fund education for a very long time.

Effective March 1, 2011 the firm of Essmyer, Tritico & Rainey, LLP has dissolved. Christopher L. Tritico and Ron S. Rainey, along with James Krell and their support staff, have created the new law firm of Tritico Rainey, PLLC, located at 1523 Yale Street ., 713-581-8203. Michael M. Essmyer and Frank B. Daniel, together with their support staff, will continue to office at 5111 Center Street, Houston, Texas, 713-869-1155 under the new firm name of The Essmyer Law Firm.

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The legislature has attempted to fund school districts in various ways over the years. In the late 80's the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the system that was in place at the time was unconstitutional and therefore void. The legislature came up with what it called the Robin Hood Plan. "Rich" school districts were forced to give money to "poor" school districts. This plan caused funding problems for more school districts than before. The Supreme Court stepped in again and threw out the Robin Hood Plan.

Three years ago to replace the Robin Hood Plan the legislature cut property taxes and froze school revenue at 2006 levels. I never did quite understand how this would increase revenue for the school districts that did not have sufficient funding to run on. If you will recall Governor Perry announced this new plan claiming that every Texas would receive a $2000 tax savings. I'm still waiting for mine. The result: School funding is today dramatically less equitable and an estimated 40% of the state's 1,040 school districts are running deficits. See article by Gary Scharrer, Houston Chronicle, April 26, 2009.

The non partisan Legislative Budget Board found that funding today is more inequitable than it was when lawmakers reformed the system. The current system- freezing finding at 2006 levels is simply robbing our children of the first rate education they deserve. More importantly it is setting the State up for a school funding disaster that it cannot financially afford to dig out of. Budget writers have proposed to increase spending on education 1.9 billion over the next two years. Unfortunately that is not enough to make up for the short falls created by the current funding system.

Here's an idea: Let's stop pandering to those who only care about cutting taxes at the expense of anything and everything else and start funding our schools. Don't get me wrong, I like everyone, am in favor of lower taxes; however, robbing the children of Texas of a quality education in the name of tax reform is shortsighted and just flat wrong.

Our leaders speak of providing for the first rate education and then take away the funding necessary to do so. The financial crises looming for Texas will dwarf the one we are in now if legislature does not address this issue now.

So Governor, Members of the House and Senate, please, pretty please, stop the gamesmanship and fix the school funding crises. Do it in the name of education. Do it for the children of Texas. Do it for the good of Texas.