commission spokesman Larry Jones said the Park district would keep $13,900 per student, agency was disappointed with the ruling. while kids in Dallas ISD’s largely poor and “Respectfully, we disagree with his decision. minority schools would get $179. We are considering further legal options that If legislators were hoping to derail the are open to us.” He refused to divulge more lawsuit by bribing wealthy districts to drop and wouldn’t specify what legal options the their case, they’ll be disappointed. commission is considering. “We’ve had these conversations, and we’re all in this together,” Thompson says. “The idea COURT AT TUNNEL’S END For lawmakers in our that you’re going to peel off particular groups, citizen’s legislature who signed up for a fivewe’re going to resist that. You’re going to see month session every two yearsand need to a proposal that serves all districts equally or work for a livingthis year must have a deathyou’re going to see the lawsuit move forward!’ march feel to it. Instead of just one regular A funding distribution plan unveiled by legislative term, they are working on their House Select Committee on School Finance fourth special session with no end in sight. But the analogy that might work better goes to the equity of a sort, but proposes a paltry amount root of the word “deadline.” It was coined in of additional state funding. Grusendorf’s plan the Civil War, for the line in the military prison would scrap the state’s weighted attendance camp beyond which guards were authorized to system, which offers districts a percentage of shoot prisoners for escaping. additional per-student funding for students Savor the irony. Today, legislators face in expensive-to-educate groups, like special a deadline on school finance not of their education or limited English proficiency. own making. On July 26th the Travis County Instead, Grusendorf proposes a flat payment of District Court is set to hear West-Orange Cove $4,459 for kids in grades kindergarten through v. Alanis, the lawsuit brought by nearly 300 eighth, and a thousand dollars more for high Texas school districts alleging chronic underschool students. Additional sums would be funding by the state. offered for students in special groups: $450 As originally filed three years ago by the for students in bilingual education, $300 for wealthiest districts, the suit alleged that students in special education, etc. Altogether, the wealth-equalizing “Robin Hood” system Grusendorf’s proposal entails only about $730 deprived them of meaningful local control. As million extra for the 2005-2006 school yeara of late last year, however, the suit has been budget increase of barely 3 percent. joined by hundreds of poor and mid-wealth The proposal is based on a study by Texas districts, and the focus has shifted away from A&M University researchers, which measures eliminating recapture. The litigation now educational outcomes with levels of funding. asks the state to step up it’s share of school The funding level in Grusendorf’s proposal funding. predicts a mere 55 percent of students will To appease districts now, says David pass the state’s assessment exams, and allows Thompson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, a drop-out rate of 25 percent. legislators will have to decrease reliance on Grusendorf’s revenue proposal included local property taxes and make up the loss a statewide property tax on both residential with state money, as well as substantially and commercial property, and has already increase the amount of money that goes into drawn criticism from a coalition representing the system. And, Thompson says, they’ll have almost all of the state’s 1,031 school districts. to do it without increasing the funding gap According to a statement the coalition signed between rich and poor schools. on April 24, a state property tax would remove No strategy offered to date would seem to local control from school districts. The districts, meet the suit’s requirements. The governor many of whom have fought with each other in proposed a statewide tax, capped at $1.40 per the past over sharing property taxes, also said $100 of valuation, on commercial property; that any funding plan should include some local governments would keep revenues from measure of wealth-sharing. residential property, capped at $1.25. This Unless legislators want to start again after plan essentially excuses so-called “mansion the Travis County District Court rules this districts,”those whose property wealth is summer, they’ve got little more than three in high-dollar homesfrom the equalization months to settle the West-Orange lawsuit and system. Under the plan, the ritzy Highland send the districts and their lawyers home. El Paso, continued from page 20 Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague In History demic was spread throughout the globe thanks to the most technologically advanced and destructive war the world had ever known. It was brought to the border by American soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss. Between 1915 and 1917, fewer than 10 El Pasoans had died from the typhus lice that had so terrified mayor Tom Lea. Yet the mayor and the media had milked the typhus scare for all it was worth with sensational headlines. Then in the first week of October 1918, when more than 1,300 Fort Bliss soldiers contracted Spanish influenza, El Paso Mayor Charles Davis, who took over Lea’s job, had nothing but optimistic reports: “I have been informed by city physicians that the situation is not one to cause any alarm. We have grippe in the city, but we have that every fall. There is no danger whatever.” Yeah, right. On November 28, 1918, doctor John Tappanan El Paso public health official who had disinfected thousands of Mexicans at the bridge but had completely ignored the Spanish flu until thenwrote his friend overseas that in two months there had been more than “10,000 cases in El Paso and the Mexicans died like sheep. Whole families were exterminated.” In one day alone, the great influenza killed 37 Segundo Barrio residents \(who had never even vaguely considered the notion that they were the ones who should have been protecting themselves and sanitation trucks would come pick up the bodies and take them to the cemetery. Sometimes they would make several trips to the same house. People would start coughing blood in the morning; by the afternoon they were dead. While the nation was obsessively protecting itself from its southern border, its real threat came from within. But that’s an old story down here at the El Paso-Juarez international bridge. Writer and musician David Romo lives in El Paso. 5/7/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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