Did the Court feel that equalizing the funding between schools in Texas would make school opportunity for students equal?
In 1973, the San Antonio Independent School District filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court to decide whether or not the state of Texas financed public education in such a way to discriminate against students living in poor school districts.
The Supreme Court (1973) held that “the Texas system does not operate to the peculiar disadvantage of any suspect class.” Although such is the case, the Court also held that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms” (United States Supreme Court [USSC], 1973).
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There are, however, factors to consider before such an equal opportunity for students to exist.
While believing that education must be made available to all on equal terms, the United States Supreme Court (1973) also believed that “the history of education since the industrial revolution shows a continual struggle between two forces: the desire by members of society to have educational opportunity for all children, and the desire of each family to provide the best education it can afford for its own children.” The Texas financial system for public schools is a “product of the state and local participation” (USSC, 1973).
Half of the revenues to provide basic education were derived from state-funded programs and each district aids in financing through taxes on properties within the district’s jurisdiction. The appellees claim that Texas’ reliance on local property taxation discriminates poor families who reside in districts having low generation of property tax.
The United States Supreme Court (1973), however, held that the state of Texas works its system of school finances such that “While assuring a basic education for every child in the State, it permits and encourages a large measure of participation in and control of each district’s schools at the local level.”
It was based on the efforts “devoted to establishing a means of guaranteeing a minimum statewide educational program without sacrificing the vital element of local participation” and local control means… the freedom to devote more money to the education of one’s children” (USSC, 1973).
There is no doubt that the United States Supreme Court feel that equalizing the the funds between schools in Texas would make opportunity for students equal as well.
However, it held that the financial system has already provided the basic educational requirement and does not believe that the state of Texas is not making any efforts to provide such equal opportunity in education for its students. The 1973 decision states that:
“In sum, to the extent that the Texas system of school financing results in unequal expenditures between children who happen to reside in different districts, we cannot say that such disparities are the product of a system that is so irrational as to be invidiously discriminatory.
Texas has acknowledged its shortcomings and has persistently endeavored – not without some success – to ameliorate the differences in levels of expenditures without sacrificing the benefits of local participation. TheTexas plan is not the result of hurried, ill-conceived legislation.
It certainly is not the product of purposeful discrimination against any group or class. On the contrary, it is rooted in decades of experience in Texas and elsewhere, and in major part is the product of responsible studies by qualified people” (USSC, 1973).
The United States Supreme Court (1973) believed that “the Texas plan for financing public education reflects what many educators for a half century have thought was an enlightened approach to a problem for which there is no perfect solution” in which the justices are unwilling to assume “a level of wisdom superior to that of legislators, scholars, and educational authorities in 50 States, especially where the alternatives proposed are only recently conceived and nowhere yet tested.”
United States Supreme Court (1973). San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. 411 US 1