Other Voices

Texas school finance issues are matters of justice and righteousness

Kindergartners took a tour to acquaint them with Willis Lane Elementary on the first day of classes, August 25, 2014.
Kindergartners took a tour to acquaint them with Willis Lane Elementary on the first day of classes, August 25, 2014. Special to the Star-Telegram

In May, the Texas Supreme Court declared that the state’s public school finance system satisfies minimum constitutional requirements — yet the court also noted that the system is “Byzantine” and “undeniably imperfect” with “immense room for improvement.”

Thus, we were deeply disappointed when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared, “The school finance issue, for now, has been resolved. The Supreme Court said we’re right.”

With all due respect to the lieutenant governor and his colleagues, nothing has been resolved. The school finance issue remains one of the most pressing questions of justice and righteousness facing Texas.

When they were inaugurated, our Texas legislators swore a solemn oath before God to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State.”

We have no doubt that our elected leaders take these oaths before God seriously. As devoted public servants they are undoubtedly familiar with the state constitution, which requires that “it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

Thanks to our strong economy, Texas’s population and public school enrollments are growing rapidly. Next month, more than 5 million children will enroll in public schools across the state.

Money doesn’t solve all problems, and there can and must be accountability to parents and taxpayers alike. But requiring public schools to educate more children with fewer dollars is simply asinine.

It’s simply shameful that a state with as many resources as Texas ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in education spending per student.

We are grateful for the steady leadership of Fort Worth school Superintendent Kent Scribner and the thousands of public school employees across our city and state who put themselves on the line every day for the sake of all schoolchildren.

In 20 or 30 years, these millions of children will be will adults, on whom we will be counting to run our democracy, lead our businesses, administer our medicine and shepherd our congregations.

As faith leaders who are deeply concerned about the future of our state, it is our contention that any bill that diverts public dollars away from public schools is in clear violation of the constitution of Texas, and any elected official who sponsors or advocates for such a bill is in breach of their solemn oath of office.

We continue to pray for those who have been entrusted with the task of governing our state.

As proud partners of Pastors for Texas Children, our fervent prayer is that our elected leaders will fulfill their oaths and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

The future of our democracy depends upon it.

Rev. Ryan Baer is pastor of Ridglea Presbyterian Church; Rev. Fritz Ritsch is pastor of St. Stephen Presbyterian Church; and Rev. Chad Presley is pastor of Westside Presbyterian Church, all in Fort Worth.

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