So would the rest of us, Your Honor.
In his first major appearance since finding the Texas school finance system unconstitutional in 2014, state District Judge John Dietz said Sunday that a solution to the state’s unequal and ineffective public education system should come from the Legislature.
“We are dooming a generation of these children by providing an insufficient education, and we can do better,” Dietz told hundreds of teachers gathered in Austin. “It’s in our best interest to do better.”
In his decision last September, Dietz ruled in favor of more than 600 Texas school districts that brought the case. The districts, which serve three-fourths of the state’s estimated 5 million public school students, argued that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education.
“Whether we like it or not, this lies with the legislature, not the courts,” Dietz said. “Even if I am wrong, what do they say about what they have in their own materials? The achievement gap is substantial, persistent, and it has been for ten to 15 years.”
Dietz’s comments were met with applause at a training hosted by the Association of Texas Professional Educators – the largest independent teachers’ organization in Texas, and the largest of it’s kind in the United States, with an estimated 100,000 members.
Then attorney general, now Gov. Greg Abbott attempted to remove Dietz from the case last year, questioning his impartiality based on a series of emails between the judge and school district lawyers. But at ATPE, lobbyists remain optimistic that Abbott will work with them to solve problems affecting public education.
“We think that this governor is a breath of fresh air in education, and he wants to work with public educators, unlike the previous governor,” [Brock Gregg, ATPE’s governmental relations director] added. “But it is yet to be seen if the money will follow the idea. Until substantial funding is directed towards education, we are working at the edges.”
I’m glad they’re optimistic – I guess anyone can look good compared to Rick Perry – but color me skeptical for now. Abbott did defend the 2011 cuts in court, then declined all calls to settle after Judge Dietz’s ruling, preferring instead to draw this out by appealing to the Supreme Court. And even if you do have faith in Abbott, Dan Patrick gets a say in this, too. He thought those 2011 cuts were a good idea. Given a choice between these guys coming up with a solution and waiting for the Supreme Court to impose one, I’ll take my chances on the latter.