The Twisted Saga of Texas School Finance: How We Got Here

On May 13th, 2016, a group of disaffected Texans got together to rail against the status quo.

Justice Willett: Texas’ more than five million school children deserve better.

The language of resistance is, of course, nothing new in Austin. But this wasn’t some “Never Trump” rally on the steps of the capitol.

Justice Willett: They deserve transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid.

In fact, these are the words of a man who would later be put on President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist.

Justice Willett: Seize this urgent challenge and upend an ossified regime.

This is the unanimous opinion of the Texas Supreme Court, as delivered by Justice Don Willett and concurred by Justice Eva Guzman.

The system is broken. We should aspire to more than being solidly in the middle.
— Justice Eva Guzman

So what had this august and conservative body so worked up?  The way we fund public schools in Texas.

Justice Guzman: The economic future of this great state lies in the hands of our children, and educating them must be our first priority.

The court, in its Morath v. Texas Taxpayer decision, did not go so far as to declare the system unconstitutional.

Justice Willett: Equality of educational achievement is a worthy goal of government, and society at large, but it is not a constitutional requirement.

But these statements acknowledge that “equality of educational achievement” is not currently being provided, and implore state lawmakers to take action.

Justice Guzman: Good enough now does not mean that the system is good or that it will continue to be enough.

So why, when the system is so bad it’s got Justice Willett reaching for the thesaurus-

Justice Willett: Recondite, Daedalean

-did the Texas Supreme Court not simply force the legislature to act with a court order?

Justice Willett: Our judicial responsibility is not to issue edicts from on high in hopes of increasing educational outputs.

Simply put, that tactic has been tried. A lot.

Justice Willett: For the seventh time since the late-1980s, we are called upon to assess the Texas school finance system.

And in fact, one reason our school finance system has become so- what’s the word...

Justice Willett: Byzantine, sclerotic

-is because earlier Texas Supreme Court decisions forced lawmakers to craft far-reaching legislation in a matter of months, even weeks, or face complete shutdown of all public schools.

Justice Willett: Texas children deserve better than serial litigation.

But it’s also true that our system is more equitable now than it was thirty years ago, thanks to measures that passed in large part because of court orders.  As Justice Guzman recognized, we have not achieved true equity, and we’re in danger of backsliding.

Justice Guzman: Shortfalls in both resources and performance persist in innumerable respects, and a perilously large number of students is in danger of falling further behind. Our Legislature can and should continue to strive for a better system for all Texas students.

So how did we get here? Who came up with this convoluted finance formula? What does our Constitution guarantee to our kids?  How do we determine what is truly “adequate” for education? And why is it that we use property taxes to pay for it?

We have to answer these questions if we want to move forward.  We have to know our history if we want to avoid repeating it. We have to go back… way back. 180 years.

Pres. Lamar: Education is a subject in which no jarring interests are involved, and no acrimonious political feelings, excited; for its benefits are so universal that all parties can cordially unite in advancing it.

If only it were that simple.  I’m Joshua Kumler, and this is the Twisted Saga of Texas School Finance. Powered by InvestEd TX.

Part 1, 1838. Why do we pay for schools with local property taxes?

Pres. Lamar: How shall we protect our rights if we do not comprehend them? Can we comprehend them unless we acquire a knowledge of the past and present condition of things?

This is Mirabeau B. Lamar, the poet president of the Republic of Texas. In his first address to the Congress of the new nation, he argued for the creation of a system of public schools.

Pres. Lamar: The present is a propitious moment, to lay the foundation of a great moral, and intellectual edifice, which will be hailed as the chief ornament and blessing of Texas.

Lamar was a powerful public speaker.  He was not, however, a particularly good President. His lofty vision was not aligned with the reality of the Republic, which had an empty treasury and mounting debts after barely winning a war of independence from Mexico.

Pres. Lamar: A liberal endowment can now be effected without the expenditure of a single dollar.

Lamar’s cost-saving solution? Use the only thing Texas had in abundance: land.  And sell it as soon as possible.

Pres Lamar: Defer it, and the uneducated youths of Texas, will constitute the living monuments of our neglect and remissness.

But the very fact that land was so abundant meant it wasn’t worth very much; what little money was made from sales and leases was hardly enough to effect a statewide system.  So in 1856, state leaders took their meager school fund and invested it.

At the time, the biggest and seemingly safest investment opportunity was in the burgeoning railroad industry.  This policy had the dual benefits of raising funds while also encouraging economic development. There was just one problem.

The Civil War. Construction halted, the railroad companies defaulted on their loans, and what little was left was diverted to the war effort.  Over thirty years after President Lamar set his grandiose goals, there still was not a single free public school in the state, leading the U.S. Commissioner of Education to report that “Texas [is] the darkest field, educationally, in the country.”

And it was about to get darker.

In 1869, Republican Edmund J. Davis was narrowly elected governor and began the period known as “Radical Reconstruction” in the state.  His “radical” ideas consisted of free education for every child, to be administered by certified teachers, and paid for by a statewide property tax.

In response, newly-built school houses were burned to the ground.  Teachers daring to instruct black students, or even express support for Republican politicians, were ostracized.  The Ku Klux Klan fielded candidates for state office.

Gov. Davis: If you have no government, it will cost you nothing.

Gov. Davis in 1871, attempting to appeal to reason.

Gov. Davis: If you have public schools, and law and order, you must pay for it.  You must be taxed if you have all the incidentals of a government, and sensible men will not complain.  Our taxes are less than any other state. You must give the Executive some means to enforce the law or you had better abolish them.

The Democratic party called Davis’ bluff, not only replacing him in the state house, but re-writing the state constitution to severely limit the power of the executive branch and placing strict limits on how funds can be appropriated for public schools.  Our state still operates under this Constitution; it is the document upon which the Morath case was decided.

Aiming to get rid of the statewide property tax, the new government returned to an old idea for school funding: selling public land.  But, just like forty years prior, land values still couldn’t cover the costs. So in 1879, former secessionist and then-Governor Oran M. Roberts simply vetoed the public school appropriation, rather than raise any additional state revenues.

But for a new generation of Texans, the choice between no schools or new taxes was harder to make.  Despite their strong repudiation of reconstruction rule, they had now experienced, for the first time, a universal, free public school system. And they didn’t want to see it go away.

It is cheaper to educate the ignorant than to reform the vicious.

Schools afford safer protection than sheriffs, standing armies, and penitentiaries.

It is cheaper to build school houses than it is to build gallows.

These are the campaign slogans for an amendment to the Texas Constitution- the first ever- that would allow school districts to levy local property taxes for the benefit of their schools.  Voters approved the measure in 1881, and their choice allowed schools to stay open in the face of Gov. Roberts’ intransigence.

It was a stopgap, meant to makeup for a failure in leadership, that has been enshrined in state practice ever since.  It sowed the seeds of remarkable inequity, giving urban areas with more taxable property distinct advantages over rural communities.  It was an accident of history, the first of a series of band-aids. And it only got more complicated from there.

Part 2, 1948. How much is enough?

E.E. Arnaud: A hasty summary of the problem is simply: too many kids! Or from the humane point of view, too little money.

This is an editorial written by E.E. Arnaud, the superintendent of Edgewood Common School District, in 1948.

E.E. Arnaud: We should like to have them all in school save for one thing: if they came we would have no place to put them.

The post-war baby boom was taking a huge toll on school districts across the state.  Edgewood, and many other small districts like it, had to conduct two separate “half-day” class schedules to accommodate all of their students. But Edgewood also faced its own unique challenges, thanks to boundary lines that were drawn within the city of San Antonio, but outside of its prosperous urban core.

E. E. Arnaud: The problem here is the fact that we do not have any property valuable enough to bring in large amounts of tax dollars. We have a School District largely within the city limits, but without a smell of the taxes paid on downtown properties. The people in this area support the downtown businesses quite as much as the closer-to-towners, but share not in the "spoils."

As a result, the district lacked funds for new buildings, overcrowding persisted, and teachers had to be paid far less than their counterparts in areas just a few miles away.

Would it not be wonderful if the average citizen would take the interest needed to enable the school to do the job everybody thinks it ought to do?
— E.E. Arnaud

Texas Representative Claud Gilmer thought Texas schools could be doing more with the money they already had. Rather than vote to simply raise teacher salaries without understanding the larger classroom funding picture, he lobbied to study the issue. And a committee, named for him and Senate leader A.M. Aikin, was formed.

The Committee- made up of legislators and civilians- met for over a year leading up to the next legislative session. They crisscrossed the state and visited most school districts- at the time, there were over 4000. Through exhaustive research, they made recommendations that form the backbone of our state’s education system today, including “foundational” funding meant to provide an “adequate” education for every Texas student. Before then, no state leaders had really asked how much was enough.

Despite the name of the Committee, credit for securing passage of these bills belongs, primarily, to two different legislators: Senator James Taylor (no relation to the singer) and Representative Rae Files Still, one of the first teachers to ever serve in the Texas Legislature. She later wrote a book about her experience, and picks up the story here:

Rae Files Still: It was understood that success or failure would depend on the attitude of the Texas State Teachers Association. [They were] extremely suspicious.  It was hard for the teachers to believe that Senator Taylor, public relations director of the Texas Manufacturers Association, would be interested in school reforms which would cost more money and not less.

Taylor overcame the teacher’s distrust by seeking their input in crafting the committee’s recommendations. They later came to be thankful for Taylor’s involvement; as chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, he could keep powerful business interests from lobbying against the measure by holding their own legislation hostage.

Rae Files Still: This was particularly true of the oil and gas lobby. Gauging accurately the extent of Senator Taylor’s interest in the bills and knowing his reputation for ruthlessness, there was no sign of opposition.

The educators began to call on a vast network of parents, small business owners, and community leaders to apply pressure to their locally elected officials.

Rae Files Still: Often entire faculties would write letters to their legislators and would persuade members of their families to do likewise. Occasionally teachers were successful in getting their students to write. One representative was discovered tallying the mail he received for and against the bills in an effort to come to a decision.

In addition to writing letters, the teachers and their supporters did something that had rarely been tried before: they showed up in Austin during session.

Rae Files Still: Most citizens seldom follow the performance of their representatives, who, as a result, are often able to deceive their constituents. Attendance of many constituents, it was rightly thought, would have a wholesome effect in keeping members in line in living up to their pledges to support the bills. A member who had promised the school people of his district that he would support the measures, but was apparently lukewarm, flung out this statement in a bitter voice: "How can I vote against them when those people are up there in the gallery watching me every minute?”

Sensing the bills were likely to pass, opponents resorted to extreme measures: they walked out, preventing a quorum of House members for the final vote. The sergeant-at-arms, pistol in hand, pursued the fleeing lawmakers.  According to one historian, a group of three were found in a nearby bar, and one was chased out the backdoor… into a clothesline filled with diapers. “Thus the baby's diapers also contributed their bit to the improvement of its subsequent education.”

Rae Files Still: Numerous advantages of the reorganization plan have become immediately apparent. School districts have been consolidated and regrouped into better, more efficient administrative units. Many well-qualified teachers are returning to teaching positions as a result of higher salaries. The great school reform program brought about by the Gilmer-Aikin bills provides hope for the future.

A great deal of this story remains relevant in our current political landscape: the importance of thorough study, the power of public pressure, and the necessity of broad-based coalition building.  But perhaps most instructive is what came after the passage of these bills: very little.

Lawmakers, assuming the problem had been solved, rested on their laurels.  The economic index that had been implemented quickly became outdated. Funding for the programs came from the clearance fund, essentially un-allocated tax leftovers that ran high in the postwar boom years but were unprotected from future downturns.  The issue of adequacy had finally been addressed. Equity, on the other hand, was still a distant notion.

Part 3, 1968. What do we promise every child?

WOAI-TV News Editorial: Under the present financing system of public education in Texas, the quality of a child’s education is directly related to the wealth of his parents and neighbors.

This is a News Editorial from WOAI-TV, San Antonio, from December 23rd, 1971.

WOAI-TV News Editorial: A suit has been filed here in the Federal Court to ascertain the constitutionality of the present financing system.  The Court will decide the merits of this case, but the moral question must still be answered by us all.

Rodriguez v. San Antonio was filed on behalf of parents and students in the Edgewood school district.  Over twenty years after former Superintendent Arnaud wrote his editorial, many of the same problems still plagued the neighborhood.  In spite of the Gilmer-Aikin laws, nearly half of the district’s teachers were not certified, and were instead working on emergency waivers.

Demetrio Rodriguez: We had a lot of problems; they didn’t care what the kids were doing.  The best teachers don't stay in the district.

This is a reading from the oral history of Demetrio Rodriguez, a parent, World War II veteran, and lead plaintiff in the Rodriguez v. San Antonio case.

Demetrio Rodriguez: A lot of people realized their kids weren't getting a good education, like the kids on the northside of San Antonio were getting, where the Anglos lived. In my mind I thought maybe we could do some good. I didn't envision that it was going to be something this big, that it would take this long!

The case took over three years to finally be decided; a three judge panel waited through two legislative sessions, hoping elected officials would address the inequity inherent in a funding system based on property values. Instead, the state attorneys general assumed the whole thing was nothing to worry about.

Mark Yudof: The assistant AG, who was not too astute a lawyer, accused us all of being communist, literally Communist, because we felt that a child's education should not be a function of the wealth of the school district in which they resided.

This is Mark Yudof, an attorney on the Rodriguez case who later became chancellor of the University of Texas.  But not before he almost lost his job as a law professor for taking the case.

Mark Yudof: I may be the only chancellor in the history of UT who was reprimanded by the board of regents.

Yudof not only kept his job, but won a unanimous judgement from the three judge panel.

Mark Yudof: The state blew it off because they viewed it not only as a sort of socialist conspiracy, but as a frontal attack on local control of education, which is obviously strongly embedded in Texas and across the country as a value. Well, my feeling was there were ways to treat low income kids, or at least kids living in property poor districts, fairly and not to give up local control. We also thought that it was hollow to speak of local control when you have a district that's raising very few dollars because its tax base is so low. To speak of them as having local control in the same sense as an affluent district, it's not real. I mean, it is simply not real.

The state appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. But its own defendant, the San Antonio Independent School District, wrote a brief in favor of the lower court’s judgement, because it too was suffering from an inequitable system.

Mark Yudof: I was trying to make the case that these kids, they don't choose to be where they are. They're not responsible. Children don't choose to be rich or poor. Children generally don't choose where their parents are going to live and where they're going to pay taxes, and so forth. We couldn't quite get there, because at the end of the day, Powell felt that this was a threat to local control of education.

Yudof refers to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, the deciding vote in the 5-4 ruling and author of the opinion. Powell, a former school board member in Richmond, Virginia, was deeply concerned about local control, which Yudof had tried to argue would have been increased, not limited.

Mark Yudof: We talked about district power-equalizing, giving districts equal capacity to make decisions, and I think that could have been done.

“Power-equalizing” is an inordinately epic name for an arcane tax policy, but it almost changed the course of history.  Twice. So I’m going to do my best to explain it.

“Power-equalizing” ensures the same tax yield for the same tax rate across districts. What that means is, if a district like Edgewood taxed themselves at the same rate as nearby affluent district Alamo Heights, they would receive the same amount for their tax effort. Both districts would still be free to set their own rates, but property poor districts wouldn’t be forced to set high rates to get the same or even less revenue than another district taxing its residents very little.

“Power-equalizing” actually improves local control.  But Justice Powell misunderstood what it meant. In his notes on the oral argument, Powell wrote “Power equalizing may be unconstitutional, the input for education of some children being dependent in part on what taxpayers of other districts are willing to pay.” Justice Powell’s notes actually underline of the word “other,” but it’s a misrepresentation, unsubstantiated by the transcripts.  Taxpayers in one district wouldn’t have any say in how much other districts taxed themselves.

Still, Justice Powell’s mind had been made up, and he not only upheld the Texas school finance system, but held that education was not a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Mark Yudof: This idea of the Supreme Court picking out new fundamental rights, whether it's voting or housing or education or whatever, that era was coming to an end. I was deeply bitter and disappointed, and I did think it was all over.

But as it turns out, the saga was far from over, it was just reaching a new phase.  While the Supreme Court’s decision ruled out arguments based on the U.S. Constitution, it opened the door for challenges in state Supreme Courts, where constitutions had specific provisions regarding education.

Mark Yudof: It was peculiar. I would actually have reporters call and say “we wanted to talk to you about your big win in the Rodriguez case.” And I would say I lost the case. And they would say, no, you didn't, you won the case. And I would say, you know, I, of all people should know.  So sometimes there's an idea, if you're looking at the history of ideas, that comes to fruition. And even though the Supreme Court had denied relief in the case, it seemed to have a life.

One of the places this idea continued to have life was in Texas, thanks in large part to Demetrio Rodriguez.  He was again a lead plaintiff in another case filed on behalf of the Edgewood school district, this time in the Texas state courts. And in 1988, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Texas students were not being provided an adequate, efficient education as promised by the State constitution.

Twenty years after his initial lawsuit, Rodriguez had finally forced the Texas Legislature to consider the equity implications of a school finance system reliant on property taxes.  And Mark Yudof had not only worked his way up to becoming dean of the UT law school, he’d also befriended key state leaders and was in a position to make his vision a reality.

Mark Yudof: I said, you know, let's take a major, major step forward. And I called the proposal "95 in '95." So obviously this is in the early nineties. And the idea was we would create a system where the state would guarantee that the poorest school districts in the state would have resources equal to those of school districts in the state at the 95th percentile of wealth. So what I was doing was cutting off the five percent tail of the very wealthiest districts where if you tried to equalize up to them, the cost was astronomical, you know, $50 billion dollars or something, and if you tried to cap them, then the political cost was astronomical because they didn't want to have their expenditures capped. And we got it passed! And we got it signed.

But, not unlike with Justice Powell fifteen years earlier, many people misconstrued what the plan meant.  They thought the wealthiest districts were being left out as a political concession, rather than simply as a practical consideration to ensure the whole system worked.

Mark Yudof: And the Supreme Court of Texas, which then was dominated by, I guess, it's more progressive elements, they said it was unconstitutional because it didn't go to the 100th percentile. And I thought, I'm out of this business. I mean, in the real world, this is as good as it's going to get.

95 percent of justice is better than zero percent of justice in my view, by a considerable margin. I think that was a great lost opportunity when people get too dogmatic, too ideological, and you know that old saying about the perfect being the enemy of the good.
— Mark Yudof

There would be no “95 in ‘95,” and that meant Gov. Ann Richards needed a new plan by the end of ‘91. So she fought for the creation of County Education Districts, large taxing entities that encompassed multiple school districts. But this, too, was found unconstitutional by the Texas Supreme Court under the Constitution’s ban on a statewide property tax.  So she fought for the passage of a constitutional amendment to allow for the system. It was rejected by Texas voters.

The Texas Legislature, at this point, had one month between the failure of the vote and the court-ordered deadline to find a solution, or all Texas public schools would be shut down.  So they passed a system unlikely to have been successful in any other scenario, and in fact begins to resemble the creeping socialism and loss of local control Justice Powell was so worried about to begin with.  Districts would be capped to a certain spending level, and taxes raised over that amount would be “recaptured” and sent to poorer districts.

Mark Yudof: In principle, I'm not opposed to what has been called pejoratively the Robin Hood plan, but I always thought it was volatile to have the districts raise the taxes in their district, get the money, and then have the state put the grabs on it afterwards. It's so crude a form of redistribution that inevitably it leads to grave political problems.

This is the system we still operate under today.  And it has done a great deal for increasing equity across school districts in the state.  But it also has created a situation in which, not unlike in the 1800s, we are increasingly over-reliant on the value of land for the funding of our public schools, and unprepared for what a downturn in the market might do.

Mark Yudof: It's much better to just have a statewide tax which you distribute on some basis that puts more money in the poor school districts or low-income kids. The best thing to do is to have far more substantial state funding than at present. The lower the state's share of education expenses is, the more inequities you're gonna have. The higher the proportion of state contribution, the more likely you can iron it out by formulas at the state-level that are fair.

Mark Yudof is a legal and educational expert whose ideas were misinterpreted and disregarded by two different courts that had drifted too far into partisanship, one to the right, and the other to the left.  Talking with him is enlightening; it’s also more than a little depressing.

Mark Yudof: I hate to say it, but I don't see a change. I see this happening over and over and over again.  Debate is still going on about how much dollars matter and how the dollars are deployed. And merely spending more money is not going to improve educational outcomes if the money is not spent wisely. Well, I would've thought that's obvious. And I would also think if money doesn't matter, then the affluent districts would have no trouble giving it up. It's hard to make progress.  The arguments are repetitive. I saw, to be honest, a certain moral dimension to making sure that poor kids and poor districts received a fair shake. It was just that simple. The truth is, we are not that strong in understanding how poor kids learn and how we improve their experience. We have lots of good programs, and we have lots of gifted educators, but every time we try to scale up something seems to go wrong. There are still some moral imperatives, but we should not delude ourselves that these complex human services are going to be simple to figure out. It's just not proven to be the case.

Given the circumstances, Prof. Yudof’s fatalism on the subject is understandable; but when we take the long view of Texas history, there is a great deal that can give us hope. The fact is, every time these issues have been faced, solutions have been found, and they’ve been the result of Texas citizens, from Edgewood parents to teachers associations to the voters of the very first constitutional amendment.  

Right now, the Texas Commission on Public School Finance- a entity very similar to the Gilmer-Aikin committee before it- is preparing its final recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. We have the opportunity to use this moment to make history, by staying informed, finding common ground across political parties, and making our voices heard.

There’s always hope.  Just listen to Demetrio Rodriguez.

Demetrio Rodriguez: We still have a lot of obstacles thrown in front of us. Not only the blacks and Mexican Americans, but a lot of poor people are being put out on the back burner, where nobody wants to think about it or do something about it. If you don't educate your citizens, something's going to happen and it's not going to help this country. We are doing harm to this country by not having equal education.

We have a lot of problems. I think they can be solved, but it will take years to do it. I guess I’m going to die and not get to see this thing resolved, these problems that we have. But one of these days we’re going to solve it; maybe it will be another fifty years. I think it’s going to get better.  I know it’s going to be better.
— Demetrio Rodriguez

Mr. Rodriguez passed away in 2013.  This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of his original lawsuit.


Amicus curiae is Latin for “friend of the court.”  In a court case, someone who is neither the defendant or plaintiff but is interested in the outcome may file an “amicus curiae brief” arguing for the judge to rule a certain way.

In the Morath v. Texas Taxpayer case, there were 25 of these briefs, from teacher’s groups, nonprofits, and even the Governor.  But one in particular stood out above the rest.

Tameez and Fan Amicus Brief: This case about public schools sorely lacks the input of public school students.

Houston ISD students Zaakir Tameez and Amy Fan filed a brief arguing for the Texas Supreme Court to find the school finance system unconstitutional.

Tameez and Fan Amicus Brief: We are a voice for the five million Texan children who remain unheard.

The court did not do so because they felt it should remain the duty of the legislature.  But the Court’s argument for legislative action contained many echoes (and at least one glowing citation) of the points made by these brilliant students.

Tameez and Fan Amicus Brief: We urge the Court to consider our voices. The stakes are simply too high.

So while these words from their brief are addressed to judges, it is perhaps more appropriate, given the ruling, to read them as an appeal to our legislators.

Tameez and Fan Amicus Brief: Although this Court has heard testimony from multitudes of "educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers,” students have never been asked what they thought about the condition of their schools.

School districts lack the necessary resources to correct the deficiencies in education that we face.

With more funding, our schools would be able to provide their students with adequate resources, decrease class sizes, enhance enrichment programs, improve teacher quality, and innovate college and career readiness programs.

We argue that these objectives are vitally necessary in Texas, especially for our classmates who are English Language Learners or in poverty.  Enrichment programs such as arts education are vital for students to live multidimensional, fulfilling lives, in school and in the workforce.

The opportunities, lessons, and skills that enrichment programs provide is unmatched by standardized test preparation and rote memorization. We encourage the justices to remember their time as children, and reflect on what role music, drama, art, and sports played in their lives as kids. It surely had an overall impact in their development and got them where they are today. No Texan should be restricted from these activities as a child today because of a lack of funding.

More individualized attention in Texas public schools should not be a luxury for the wealthy and well-connected.

Large classes subtly convey to children that the school doesn't care about them as an individual.

Every student wants a teacher to care about him or her.  The students who need the most help are essentially on their own.

Many of our peers, who did not grow up in stable family environments and lacked access to quality counseling, were never introduced to four year residential colleges, two year associate’s degree programs, or even summer internships and academic camps.

Texas children are being deprived of this information because of the State's dismal effort in providing school districts the funding to build quality college and career readiness programs.

These programs are essential in building an educated citizenry for the preservation of freedom and democracy as the Texas constitution prescribes.

Teachers are the foundation of education. It is imperative that Texas recruits talented and highly effective teachers.

With increased funding, school districts can encourage proper certification that will help teachers perform their best and raise base teacher salaries in addition to merit pay incentives that will help recruit the best and brightest teachers.

As students, we have seen firsthand the programs that can help us succeed. We know what works, we know it will help, and we know it is needed.

Our politicians, however, have yet to act. Paying for students while they’re in school is smarter than paying when they’re on the streets.

Educating our citizenry is vital to protecting our democracy. Leveling the playing field is our moral obligation to create a society where everyone has a chance to succeed.
— Amy Fan and Zaakir Tameez

The Twisted Saga of Texas School Finance is powered by InvestEd TX, and produced by me, Joshua Kumler.  It is executive produced by me, along with Kathryn Mikeska and Rob Shearer. Mixed and mastered by Adrien Palmer.  Music by Trevor Yokochi. Voice acting from Joseph Borunda, Karla Garcia, Stephen Gardner, Carlee Kumler, Dave Marquis, Kent Van Dover, and Mr. Borunda’s first period advanced acting class at W.H. Adamson High School. Special thanks to the research staff at the Dallas Public Library, Southern Methodist University’s Fondren and Underwood Law Libraries, the University of Texas’ Tarlton Law Library, and the National Archives’ Fort Worth branch.  Special thanks as well to Joseph Borunda, Mark Yudof, Amir Tal, Paul Colbert, and the entire team at InvestEd TX. There is a great deal more to this twisted saga; if you want to dive into the history you can check out the timeline on our website, Once you’re there, you can sign up to learn who your state lawmakers are and stay up to date on how you can make your voice heard in the upcoming legislative session. This podcast is dedicated to two groups of hard-workers who don’t get paid enough for all they do: teachers and Texas legislators.  The future is in both your hands. We’ll be back next month with more of the Twisted Saga.


Prologue: Supreme Court of Texas, No. 14-0776, Mike Morath, Commissioner of Education, In His Official Capacity; Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, In His Official Capacity; The Texas State Board of Education; And the Texas Education Agency, Appellants, v. The Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition, Et Al.; Calhoun County ISD, Et Al.; Edgewood ISD, Et Al.; Fort Bend ISD, Et Al.; Texas Charter School Association, Et Al.; And Joyce Coleman, Et Al., Appellees

Part One: Education in Texas, Source Materials, Compiled by Frederick Eby

The Development of Education in Texas by Frederick Eby

“The School Land Problem,” Texas Review, Vol. 1, No. 2

“Public Education and Texas Reconstruction Politics, 1871-1874” by Carl Moneyhon, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 92, No. 3

“The Meeting Last Night,” The Galveston Daily News, Aug. 17, 1871

“Rethinking the Texas Constitution of 1876” by Patrick G. Williams, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 106, No. 2

Governors' Messages, Coke to Ross, 1874-1891, Compiled by the Texas State Library & Archives

Part Two: “The Headaches of a Harassed Headucator,” E.E. Arnaud, Emancipator, Sept. 1948

The Gilmer-Aikin Bills by Rae Files Still

To Get a Better School System: One Hundred Years of Education Reform in Texas by Gene B. Preuss

The Establishment in Texas Politics: The Primitive Years, 1938-1957 by George Norris Green

Lone Star Land by Frank Goodwyn

Part Three: Interview with Mark Yudof, 08.01.18

Interview with Paul Colbert, 10.22.18

The Courage of Their Convictions by Peter H. Irons

San Antonio v. Rodriguez and the Pursuit of Equal Education by Paul A. Sracic

“School Finance Reform in Texas: The Edgewood Saga,” by Mark Yudof, Harvard Journal on Legislation, Vol 28, No. 499

“Texas got itself into this school-finance mess, how’s it going to get out?” by William P. Hobby and Mark Yudof, Houston Chronicle, Dec. 15, 1991

“Gathering the Ayes of Texas- The Politics of School Finance Reform” by Daniel C. Morgan and Mark Yudof, Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 38, No. 3

WOAI-TV News Editorial accessed at the National Archives, Ft. Worth Branch, San Antonio v. Rodriguez collection

Epilogue: No. 14-0776, In the Supreme Court of Texas, Amicus Brief of Zaakir Tameez and Amy Fan, Students, in Support of Fort Bend Independent School District, Et Al. Appellees

Student Readers:

Lesvin Aguero

Daniel Alatorre

Irma Blanco

Joe Bustamante

Bryan Carbajal

Deborah Carranza-Alvarad

Kevin Duran

Jasmine Espinoza

Brandon Flores

Jazmine Flores

Shandell Flores

Andrea Garcia

Cielo Juarez

Ivan Luna

Katherine Martinez

Richard Mcmoran

Evelyn Paredes Gonzalez

Cynthia Perez

Angela Silva

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