IT’S A COMMON JEST around the Capitol that, as New York judge Gideon Tucker remarked back in 1866, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” Only this time, it’s no joke. The school finance bill passed by the House—barely—in early March is a disaster. It sets the wrong priorities and it benefits the wrong school districts. If it becomes law, it will imperil the future of Texas.
The first priority of state government used to be education. Today it’s tax cuts—specifically, cuts in local property taxes that provide the bulk of the revenue to run the state’s school system. The school finance plan, sponsored by Kent Grusendorf, of Arlington, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, and backed by House Speaker Tom Craddick, calls for $11 billion in property tax reductions. All of the new tax revenue that will replace property taxes will be used solely to offset the cuts and end the Robin Hood school finance plan, which the Legislature adopted a dozen years ago. Not one cent of this new revenue will go to the public schools.
Make no mistake: Robin Hood deserves to die. That scheme, as surely everyone knows by now, came into being because the Texas Supreme Court had demanded equity in funding between property-rich and property-poor school districts. Under duress, the Legislature required the