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“Ms. Hunter,” Chief Justice Tom Phillips asked the assistant attorney general, “you used the word ‘require.’ By ‘require,’ do you mean it requires that some report be made and does not require that the legislation be amended? ” “It sets in place studies.” Hunter replied. “It sets in place studies?” Phillips asked. “And this was a response to [a court order to] change the system? To provide some additional studies?” “Your Honor, in fact, the bill puts in place a study a requirement that the comptroller go out and look at the efficiency of the school districts and make some determination that they are operating in an efficient manner,” Hunter said. “Does the comptroller have any power, or merely the obligation to make a report?” Justice Phillips asked. “An obligation to make a report.” Hunter responded. If there was a question from the bench that went to the heart of what the court seems to be saying, it was posed by Associate Justice Oscar Mauzy, who wrote the original Edgewood opinion. Mauzy asked a beleaguered Toni Hunter, who requested another year to see if the new finance-reform plan will work, how she could justify further delay. “Ms. Hunter, that’s what state government has been doing in Texas about public education since 1966, when the [Connally education] Commission report was filed … And ever since then, we’ve been saying: ‘Just wait, just wait, we’re going to get to it.’ How much longer, how many more generations have to wait to get what the Constitution has said since 1876 they’re entitled to?” How much longer? It is obvious that this court is not inclined to wait. A unanimous decision is a safe bet. But by nothing less than a 8-1 vote, the court will order the Legislature to put a new system in place. Though it is unlikely that the justices will enjoin the current unconstitutional system from continuing to operate, as requested by the plaintiffs, the court will most likely grant the plaintiffs’ request to move the implementation date from September 1 as ordered by the district court, to April 1 of 1991 to allow schools time to prepare budgets and hire staffs for the 1991-1992 school year. And with a little persuasion from Justices Doggett and Mauzy, the court might include either clearly defined guidelines for the Legislature, or an alternate plan, perhaps to be designed and implemented by District Judge Scott McCown, in the event that the Legislature doesn’t meet its deadline. Included in the plaintiffs’ pleadings is the outline of the bill filed by Senator Hector Uribe and Representative Greg Luna. It includes consolidation of tax bases, which would mean that districts like Edgewood and Alamo Heights would share the pooled wealth of the county in which they are located, yet still maintain their autonomy to elect boards and make policy. The Uribe-Luna plan also provides some limit on the amounts of money wealthy districts can spend for enrichment. “Mr. Rodriguez,” Vasquez said in the lobby after the appeal hearing ended, “had a son, starting school when he filed this suit. That son now has a son in the first grade. That seems like a long time to wait, doesn’t it?” It does. And as sure as Jimmy Vasquez will show up before 8 a.m., wearing a gray suit on the January morning when the court announces its next decision, the Legislature will be handed another mandate. L.D. Wake up your friends with a gift subscription to the Observer. The gift that will keep giving when the holidays are over. r Send an announcement of my gift and enter one-year subscriptions for: Name Name Address Address City/State Zip City/State Zip Sign gift card from Sign gift card from Your name address city state zip subscriptions are half-price, only $13.50 each. Enter or extend my own subscription? yes no check enclosed LINN Mil OEM NMI =III MOM =II ONE I IMMO MOM MI 11=111 IMIN MIMI IMM =II NNE MIN MEM I MEM MIMI IMO THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5