Is the Texas public school finance system really broken?
“It’s a confusing time in school finance — a maelstrom of local and state governments trying to master a byzantine system that is broken in every way but the most important one: It remains, according to the Texas Supreme Court, constitutionally sound,” laments the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey echoing almost everyone on the broken statement.
He’s wrong and so have I been when using the “broken” label.
Texas public school finance is not broken. The secret, that isn’t a really a secret, is that the Texas school finance system works everyday as designed but those involved disagree with the policies behind the system and its many formulas.
Property wealthy districts don’t like sharing their wealth (even the Leftists among them such as those in the wealthiest district, Austin ISD) and poorer districts like getting some of that wealth. Small land-area districts don’t like getting less per student than larger districts. Urban districts don’t like things that rural districts appear to get and vice versa. And it goes on to near political infinity.
The secret, that isn’t a really a secret, is that the Texas school finance system works everyday as designed but those involved disagree with the policies behind the system and its many formulas.
There are all kinds of so-called items of inequity in the school finance system but not because it is broken but because each of those items was designed to account for some other type of real or perceived inequity.
The sooner we stop falling for the school finance is broken line, the sooner we can realize that Texas is too culturally, economically, and geographically different to have a one-size-fits-all school funding program that will please all involved. If we just did that, we could more easily address tweaks and repairs without all the near-apocalyptic school rhetoric which overcomplicates and overstates problems.