One-hundred-and-fifty years ago state legislators passed legislation that moved education from being the privilege of the wealthy few to the right of all Texas children. The future of Texas changed forever.
Today, state legislators are engaged in a great conflict to decide whether we should continue to offer Texas children an education that is pretty much equal across the state, or if some areas should be able to provide better educational opportunity for their children while others struggle to provide "just enough." In Legislative terms, the fight is over "adequacy" and "Equity."
Soon we may meet in a special session where both the quality and the cost of education will be debated at great length. The debate will be over who should pay for public school education in Texas now, and who should bear the burden in the future. The debate will also be over how much should be spent per student, and should it be the same all over Texas, or should there be major differences, also called "local enrichment."
The Texas Education Agency noted this week that it was at the urging of Gov. Elisha Pease that the Texas Legislature enacted the Common School Law of 1854 on Jan. 31, providing, for the first time, state funding for public schools. The law also set aside $2 million from a $10 million land settlement with the United States government to create a fund now known as the Permanent School Fund.
Today that Fund is worth $18 billion and is the second largest educational endowment in the country.
Texas has come a long way in 150 years, but as most of us in south Texas can testify, educational opportunity remains the only hope for our children to exceed the achievements of their ancestors and to build a more prosperous community for us all.
I will fight for equity in education for every Texas school child.
Our school districts need to be able to keep more of their tax revenues to use in their own communities and we need to make sure an equitable standard is applied to provide equal educational opportunity for every student in Texas.
To do this the state may have to provide more funds for public education to insure equity across Texas.
Certainly there are differences in the cost of operating schools in different parts of Texas, but those differences need to be assessed in the direction of offering all Texas boys and girls equal educational opportunity. It is a sad fact that the poorest school districts in Texas are also filled with the most minorities. It will be grossly unfair to adopt any system that downgrades the education of minorities in Texas.
The right way to get a better education for any group of public school children in Texas is for all concerned to stand up for a better education for ALL Texas school children. That is where I will stand. If enough of us stand together, we can assure that future Texas students will enjoy a high quality, equal education across our great state.
The Texas Education Agency and many of the state’s education associations will mark this 150th anniversary with special events and celebrations throughout 2004.
A sample of the photos on exhibit can be viewed at the bottom of this story on the TEA website at: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/comm/page1.html.
Robert M. McVey
for Rep. Ryan Guillen
Southern District Office: