Cultural Revolutions

A Topic of Concern

Public-school finance, as a topic of concern, reminds us that the egalitarian impulse lives on imperishably.  Mankind must be hard-wired to scratch the ears of the perceived—generally self-defined—underdog, before siccing him on the perceived top dog.

Public schools, financed with public monies, were probably overdue their share of the action; but, boy, are they catching up.

Consider this tidbit several months back from the Dallas Morning News: “The Highland Park Independent School District asked parents and community members this month to raise $900,000 in individual contributions to pay for a 3 percent teacher raise.  The fund-raiser may be the first time a Texas school district has used donations to pay for a core element of its operating budget, state school finance authorities say.  Under the state’s [property tax] recapture system, the Highland Park district is required to send $52.5 million  from its 2001-02 budget for redistribution to poorer districts.”

The district’s plight—which has worsened in recent months—stems from a financial whammy put on “property wealthy” districts a few years ago at the behest of “property poor” districts seeking bigger bucks.  First, in 1993, the Texas Supreme Court found the school-finance system—the normal mix of state and local dollars, though with the state...

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