To see sense prevail over nonsense, look at the Fort Worth school board's recent discussion of whether to include a teacher pay raise in the district's 2012-13 budget.There was Hank Johnson, deputy superintendent of finance, presenting a proposed $600 million general fund budget that already would include an almost $28 million gap of expenditures exceeding revenue.There was Superintendent Walter Dansby reinforcing that staff was not recommending a raise, which would add close to $5 million to the funding gap.And there was Trustee Juan Rangel lecturing his colleagues on the need for a 1 percent raise -- for teachers only.(Watch the June 26 meeting video: bit.ly/3eLiC3)"At some point ... it's time for us to grab the donkey by the horns and let the donkey know we're not going to let this happen to our teachers and our staff and our personnel," Rangel argued."It's also about how committed are we as a board to stand against this whole issue of budget constraints."An additional $5 million "to me is not that big a deal" in light of the overall budget, Rangel said."We will show the Legislature we mean business: We're going to protect our teachers."Yes, indeed. Digging the financial hole even deeper is exactly what will persuade those foot-draggers in Austin to fix the whole school finance system.Did we mention how foolish it is to bank on the Texas Legislature providing more money for anything?In the end, seven trustees voted to approve a raise-less budget, against the request of the United Educators Association. Rangel and Trustee J.R. Martinez voted "no."The argument that "we have to remain competitive, or our people will leave" lost some of its force of persuasion given that many districts are making cuts.The Arlington school board voted in June for a 2 percent employee raise, but that district cut millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs instead of raising salaries for 2011-12. Arlington also changed its budget year as an accounting technique, winding up with an $8.9 million surplus and a $140 million fund balance to work with.Some districts, such as Grapevine-Colleyville and Birdville, that have opted for raises or bonuses for next year will dip into reserves to help fund their budgets.There was some sentiment on the Fort Worth board for considering a one-time stipend, which still would cost some $5 million. Trustees Norm Robbins and Christene Moss were most vocal in cautioning that administrators would first have to show where that money would come from.This board isn't always good about making tough fiscal choices, but more will be needed. Taxpayers should worry mightily about taking $28 million from reserves to make ends meet. That is expected to leave a general fund balance of $74.1 million -- far short of the $100 million that would meet the Texas Education Agency's recommendation of two months' worth of emergency funds.There's some consolation -- though not much -- in knowing that Fort Worth faced a potential deficit of $40 million before budgeters whittled it by cutting administrative positions, bus drivers, custodians, teacher assistants, library aides and other costs.A slew of lawsuits against the state ultimately might force the Legislature to overhaul school finance. But betting on it to happen during the 2013 session makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets. Anything could happen, sure, but many a hope has died in Austin.Fort Worth trustees are understandably skittish about asking voters to approve a tax hike. That leaves more cost-cutting as the only alternative. The next hard conversations for this board should be about consolidating some schools and dropping pet programs whose results don't justify their continuing costs.Now, that would be taking a meaningful stand.