A Look into the Role Law Makers Have Played in the Texas Education System
Texas law makers and citizens have been concerned about the education of our young people since before declaring our Independence from Mexico in 1836. Texas revolutionaries listed “failure to establish any public system of education, although possession of almost boundless resources,” among the reasons to become independent from Mexico. Since that time public education has seen countless policy changes, constitutional amendments and revisions, and laws changed to meet the needs of Texas students. (1)
How has the Texas education system changed? How have these policies affected our young people, and what challenges lay ahead for students, educators, parents, and policy makers?
At the birth of Texas public education there were many problems that policy makers had to overcome. How to educate students in such rural areas? How will public education be funded? These were a few of the challenges that lawmakers of that time faced but one challenge they didn’t not have land as one of them. The first public school law was written setting aside large amounts of land in each county for public school use. Later the amount was increased and additional land was set aside for the first State College. However what Texas lacked was funding. (2)
In 1845 Texas received 10 million in five percent U.S. Indemnity bonds for settling a boundary claim against the United States. Of this 10 million, 2 million was set aside as a permanent school fund. The permanent school fund was later directed to be invested in bonds. Also, during 1845 the state constitution set aside one-tenth of the annual state tax set aside to support free public schools. (1) The founding fathers of Texas public education were working toward the goal of adequately funding the Texas education system. Today the permanent school fund accounts for approximately $765 million a year. (1)
A continued effort has also been made through the life of Texas public education to develop a system of accountability. 1885 marked the first year a system of accreditation was used for Texas public schools. At that time selected tests were sent to the University of Texas. If the school was found to be satisfactory students gained automatic admission without examination. (1)
Although the intent was Texas public education had many problems. One was the growing concern for the decline of Texas literacy. Legislatures tried to address this issue in 1984 when Texas passed House Bill 72. The 68th Legislature passed this bill in response to concerns over the adequacy of Texas public schools as reflected by standardized tests. (2)
House Bill 72 brought down tougher requirements on students and began rating the schools in 1993. The students were now required to pass a state assessment test in order to meet the graduation requirements. This was system of testing was the most difficult students had been exposed to up until this point. Also the Bill created the no pass no play rule that requires students to pass every subject in order to participate in any extracurricular activity. (2)
Another problem that the Legislature attempted to address was funneling funding to property poor districts. Edgewood ISD v Kirby was filed and claimed that the system for funding public schools was discriminatory against poor districts. Edgewood ISD was against House Bill 72 and wanted a fair system of school funding. The courts ruled in favor of Edgewood ISD but law makers continued to try and come up with a fair system. The federal government threatened to shut down federal aid for public schools because of non-compliance. In 1990 Legislature tried to pass the “Robin Hood” plan. This plan would redistribute wealth from wealthy districts to poor districts. This Bill failed to pass voters. In 1993 another plan was passed by the State. This gave multiple options to districts to distribute funds...
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