for the Edgewood v. Kirby case. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit that bears Demetrio Rodriguez’s name would prevail in a three judge federal court, see their decision affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, then ultimately see it reversed by the Supreme Court in 1973. Although Justice Potter Stewart described the system of financing schools in Texas as chaotic and unfair, the Court decided that it did not have jurisdiction in the dispute. The irony of the Court’s 1973 decision, Herrera said, was that had it been heard a few months earlier the plaintiffs would have prevailed. The Court heard the case shortly after Abe Fortas, whose vote the plaintiffs had counted on, had resigned. Fortas’s replacement, Harry Blackmun, voted to reverse the appeals court decision. The final vote was 5-4. IN THE SIXTEEN YEARS since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on Texas school financing, Demetrio Rodriguez has been a party to at least one other similar suit, Rodriguez v. Bynum. He studied the report of Governor John Connally’s “Blue Ribbon Education Panel,” shared an Austin Speakers’ Platform with Governor Dolph Briscoe when the Governor addressed education reform, and watched as Governor Mark White and H. Ross Perot shepherded an education reform package through the Legislature. “Briscoe stood on that platform with us and said that he was going to do something about education,” Rodriguez said. “I think that, Mark White had his plan but then the teachers got angry. H.B. 72 had a lot of good but we didn’t get enough money to implement the programs. ” To Rodriguez, it was long ago evident that there would be no progress without a court order. “The state of Texas, the legislators, and the commissioner of education have had twenty years . . . if they were concerned about the system they would have changed it a long time ago.” Edgewood Superintendent of Schools Jimmy Vasquez, who has worked in the school district for -30 years, agrees. “I’ve been on that roller-coaster ride for so long,” Vasquez said. “You go to the Legislature year after year, over and over. And every year there’s another reason. ‘Well, you’ve got to wait until next session because of the price of oil. You’ve got to wait because of funding for prisons.’ Every session there was another reason.” According to Vasquez, the Texas Supreme Court has now provided the propertypoor school districts with the means to move the Legislature. “This victory, to come to this, nine-to-zero, was overwhelming. It will be a heavy club to take to the Legislature.” The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Associate Justice Oscar Mauzy, overruled the Third Court of Appeals ruling that had reversed the decision of State District LOUIS DUBOSE Demetrio Rodriguez Judge Harley Clark. Mauzy repeated some of the arguments made by Al Kauffman, Dave Richards, and Rick Gray, who had argued the case in the spring: Property-poor districts are trapped in a cycle of poverty from which there is no opportunity to free themselves. Because of their inadequate tax base, they must tax at significantly higher rates in order to meet minimum requirements of accreditation; yet their educational programs are typically inferior . . . The differences in the quality of educational programs offered are dramatic. For example, San Elizario I.S.D. offers no foreign language, no pre-kindergarten program, no chemistry, no physics, no calculus, and no college preparatory or honors programs. It also offers virtually no extra-curricular activities such as band, debate, or football. At the time of the trial one-third of Texas school districts did not even meet the state-mandated minimum for maximum class size. ‘ The trial court’s order was reinstated with only two minor changes. A new financing system will have to provide “substantially” the same opportunity to educational funds, rather than “the same” opportunity. And the date of implementation was changed from September 1, 1989 to May 1, 1990. Vasquez’ said that he was disappointed by Governor Bill Clements’s refusal to open the call of the November special session to education funding. “The Governor returned from the education summit and said all there were in agreement that we already spend too much on education. The Governor doesn’t understand that his state is 46 or 47 [among the 50 states] in per-pupil spending for education. We’re way below the national average.” Clements’s initial response to the suit was to observe that the court left the implementation of a new funding system to be resolved by the Legislature “where it belongs.” But he insisted that education funding will not be placed on the agenda of the special legislative session, which begins on November 14. Before the issue goes to the Legislature, the Governor wants the subject studied by a special committee. House Public Education Committee Chair Ernestine Glossbrenner, D-Alice, disagrees. “We’ve already had two select committees,” Glossbrenner said. “And though I’m sure that the Governor will appoint some substantial people to this committee, we have studied a number of plans for funding.” According to Glossbrenner, a spring special session is too close to the May 1 deadline imposed by the court. “I think it’s time to move,” she said. Demetrio Rodriguez would agree. When he signed on as a plaintiff in the first lawsuit, only his oldest child was in elementary school. Now, only his youngest daughter, Patricia, is still in school; she is a junior at John F. Kennedy High School in the Edgewood district. And after 20 years the litigation that has become part of the fabric of this West San Antonio Community has finally prevailed. “I don’t think this will help my daughter,” Rodriguez said. “I’m in it for my grandchildren now.” L.D. New Observer Associate Editor WITH THE publication of this issue, Allan Freedman joins the Observer staff as associate editor. Allan is a native New Yorker and a Columbia College graduate. While in New York, he worked at the Columbia Journalism Review. For the past two years he has worked for the Pulitizer Prize-winning Alabama Journal, a daily newspaper published in Montgomery. At the Journal, Allan covered the Alabama Legislature, a beat that should have provided him with the proper admixture of reportorial skills and skepticism to cover the Texas Legislature. Allan leaves the Journal after working on a three-reporter, investigative series on Alabama’s juvenile justice system. While working at the Journal, Allan won numerous prizes for his coverage of the AIDS crisis and rural education. Earlier this year Allan connected with El Paso AFL-CIO organizer Victor Munoz and traveled to Empalme, Mexico for a look at a maquiladora operated by a Montgomery, Alabama manufacturer. The result was a critical but fair-handed story that considered the offshore competition that forced the Montgomery-based company to relocate and also penetrated the reality of the Mexican maquila employees. Ronnie Dugger and I thank the many qualified journalists and writers who applied for the associate editor position. As we considered the applications, we regretted that we had only one position to fill. L.D. 4 OCTOBER 13, 1989
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