My issue is not with spending more money on education if that is what is needed. My issue deals with how the plaintiffs have undermined the very goal they say is what merits increased education spending: college readiness.
One thing I think we can all agree on is that the college readiness rate of our high school graduates is pitifully low.
The latest ACT College Readiness Report for Texas shows only 27 percent of our graduates meeting college readiness standards in all of the subjects tested (English, reading, math and science).
The College Board, which administers the SAT college entrance exam, puts that number at 31.8 percent.
The plaintiffs in the school finance case claim that spending should dramatically increase to provide what it takes to fulfill college readiness policies of the state.
College readiness policies no longer exist
There is one problem with that: Those college readiness policies no longer exist.
There is no basis for their argument that they need more money to meet policies that they were successful in doing away with over the last two legislative sessions.
If the Supreme Court decides that the school finance system should have the goal of college readiness, then the high court also should consider ruling that the state put back into place the requirements that will generate far greater numbers of graduating students who are ready for college or career.
Short of that order, the high court should consider the cost savings to schools that now have fewer requirements to meet and “reduce the bill” to taxpayers funding our schools. For example:
▪ Since the state no longer expects virtually all students to take the recommended high school program, especially the tougher and more expensive science and math courses, the courts ought to examine that fact for cost savings and reduce the bill.
▪ Since students no longer need to pass 15 end-of-course exams, but rather only five in the lower high school grades, the court ought to examine that for cost savings and reduce the bill.
▪ Since the end-of-course exams that are highly predictive of college success, English III and Algebra II, are gone altogether, along with any need to pass them, the court should examine that for cost savings and reduce the bill.
Diplomas without meeting even low levels of proficiency
▪ Since the Legislature has now decided that the high school diploma can be earned without a student passing freshman- and sophomore-level exams at very low levels of proficiency, the courts should examine that for cost savings and reduce the bill.
▪ Since the Legislature has, for all practical purposes, dismantled policies against social promotion, thus allowing districts to promote students irrespective of their demonstrated proficiency on objective state tests, the court should examine that fact for cost savings and reduce the bill.
▪ Since the state rates more than 90 percent of public schools as acceptable, regardless of whether their students are on the path to being college-ready and indeed takes no action if they are not, the courts ought to examine that fact for cost savings and reduce the bill.
The Supreme Court may very well want to continue to shy away from the temptation to touch the question of whether Texas public school funding is adequate for the task.
But if it chooses to face that question, it ought to ask the lower court to review each change in policy that has taken place since this case was filed to understand the policies that are actually in place in Texas, not the policies the plaintiffs and their allies helped kill.
Bill Hammond is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business.