East Texas superintendents react to unconstitutional school financing ruling

Dr. Fred Hayes, Nacogdoches ISD Superintendent
Dr. Fred Hayes, Nacogdoches ISD Superintendent
Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD Superintendent
Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD Superintendent
Roy Knight, Lufkin ISD Superintendent
Roy Knight, Lufkin ISD Superintendent

Since 2011, there have been $5.4 billion in cuts to school programs in Texas. Cuts that East Texas school districts are suffering from.

"Two years ago we lost $1.2 million in state aid. This present year was another $900,000, so you continue to lose money," Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD superintendent, said.

A state judge concluded the school tax system Texas uses to finance public school's violates the state's constitution by not providing enough money to districts and failing to distribute money fairly. Judge John Dietz said this has left room for discrepancies in wealthy parts of Texas versus poor.

Dr. Fred Hayes, Nacogdoches ISD superintendent, said, "I believe it's a great ruling; and it's good for the kids of Nacogdoches ISD, good for the students of Texas, but more importantly I think it's good for Texas in general because I think it sends a loud message to the tax payers."

Lufkin superintendent Roy Knight says his district has not received any kind of revenue increase since 2006.

"We're in the bottom 15 percent of funded school districts in the state of Texas, so this is a huge victory for our school district," Knight said. "The long stretch is good but in the short term now the legislatures are talking that potentially nothing will happen until 2015."

The school finance unconstitutional ruling is a small victory for East Texas school districts. They could use more revenue for their students but for now they will make due with what they have.

Knight said, "The state average is roughly $5,400 a student and we get 4,900."

"If you look at target revenue, meaning funds that we get from the state, our target revenue is some of the lowest in the state it's about 4,700 dollars per child," Whiteker said.

Hayes said, "To take the amount of money we get per student and match it to the state average per student, the difference is in the millions for the schools here in Nacogdoches."

The superintendents say this ruling is just the first step in a long series of events. They feel the state will appeal the ruling, and they're hoping the Supreme Court will take the fast track to get the Legislatures in favor of getting a new financial school system in order.

State Representative Trent Ashby said, "Like many East Texans, I believe deeply that our state's top priority should be to provide a quality education for our kids, regardless of their zip code."

Ashby said Judge Dietz ruling confirmed that Texas' current school funding system is broken.

"I believe that ultimately the Legislature will be required to act; and, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am hopeful that we can devise a system that accounts for adequacy and equity, and doesn't unfairly burden property taxpayers in rural areas of the state," Ashby said.

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