David Simpson and Democrats Agree: Fix School Finance Now

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David Simpson
Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview)

As House Democrats made their play for more school funding Monday afternoon, an unlikely ally of sorts roamed the chamber among them: State Rep. David Simpson.

In an op-ed in his hometown paper last weekend, the Longview Republican came out in favor of a quick and sweeping reform of Texas school funding. “Now is the time for the Legislature to make ‘suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools’ a priority,” Simpson wrote, in a nod to the Texas Constitution. “The next generation’s liberty and rights are at stake.”

The strength of Simpson’s conviction has led him to some unlikely places, including opposing school vouchers (an issue with strong tea party support lately) and, last session, a measure outlawing puppy mills. The Observer‘s Forrest Wilder recently dubbed him the “weird and wild id of the Texas tea party.”

So this afternoon, while House Republican leaders urged patience, saying it’s best to wait for Attorney General Greg Abbott’s appeal of last week’s school finance ruling, Simpson told the Observer he understands the Democrats’ impatience.

“It’s clear that it’s inequitable and with the current demands it’s not enough,” Simpson said. He elaborates in his op-ed:

“Why then are we still waiting on the courts? For judicial review that may take another year or two? Are judges now the people’s representatives with respect to public education? Is the Legislature subservient to the courts? It may be easier and politically expedient for some to shift the responsibility for supporting public education to the courts, but this is neither conservative nor, more importantly, constitutional.”

Of course, Simpson stopped short of a Kumbaya moment with the Dems today. He and House Democrats might agree that school funding should be fixed soon, but they’ve got very different ideas about what that fix should look like. Rather than restore all of the last session’s funding cuts, Simpson said the Legislature should significantly reduce the amount of standardized testing and the money Texas pays Pearson for the testing contract.

“My solution would be—and I hope not just mine—but I think the proper solution would be to remove the burdens, restore true liberty to the local communities and parents and teachers and not give them so much money to administrators,” Simpson said.