FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Heart of Texas

by GREG MOSES

In late December, Texas media headlined the State Attorney General’s announcement that he would go directly to the Texas Supreme Court to overturn a trial-court order for reform in school funding. On that same day, the same media did not report on a motion filed in the trial court by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) asking for an even stronger ruling.

And this week, as well-fed Texans feted their first family in Washington, the pattern of selective perception continued. On Wednesday, as the high rollers of Texas power tightened their ties and buffed their boots for a pre-inaugural orgy of schmooze, the State Attorney General repeated his request for a fast track hearing before the Texas Supreme Court. And all those things made headlines.

But with the news agenda hijacked by inaugural or anti-inaugural activities on Thursday, the property-rich districts in the school funding trial broke ranks with their poorer cousins at MALDEF and asked the Texas Supreme Court to get double busy for them, too. As this story goes to press, there is no mention of this significant event in the usual places Texans look for hot buzz.

So that makes two times in two months that the State Attorney General was crowned king of the media battle against school funding reform in Texas, getting all His Majesty’s Ink, without even a fair or balanced notice, not even in nine-point type, that something else is going on.

“I’m surprised altogether by the State and the West Orange Cove Plaintiffs efforts to circumvent the laws we have in place,” says MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa, speaking by telephone from his San Antonio office Friday evening.

While MALDEF and other allies for equity were openly cheering the original trial-court ruling that ordered the state to reform its school funding during the upcoming legislative session in Austin, a closer reading revealed that the judge had written a small puzzle.

At one point in the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law handed down on Nov. 30, District Judge John Dietz found that the state fails to provide constitutionally guaranteed education to Texas children because “the current funding capacity of the Texas school finance system, in conjunction with the inequitable access to revenue in the system, does not provide property-poor districts with sufficient access to revenue” (FOF 294). This phrasing suggests that not only is the state funding too low to be constitutional overall, but also that the property-poor districts can’t get their hands on their constitutionally equitable share.

About 20 pages later, however, the judge says that “a structural disparity in access to revenues, that, while not reaching the level of a constitutional violation at this time, still puts property-poor districts at a financial disadvantage when compared to Chapter 41 districts [the legal definition of a property-rich district under Texas law]” (FOF 435). Which is to say, what? That “inequitable access” to funds among property-poor districts is pretty bad, but not really a constitutional concern for Texas at this time? In its Dec. 28 motion to the trial court, MALDEF asks to have this language revised.

All through this latest round of the school funding trial, property-rich districts allied with property-poor districts because both sides said out loud in court that they supported each other’s claims. The property poor districts agreed to the property-rich argument that Texas needed more money overall in absolute dollars. If this argument prevailed in court the property-rich districts would get to raise and spend more money from their gilded tax bases at home.

In return for this kind of support from the property-poor side, the property-rich districts gave lip service to the claim that inequities between rich and poor districts also deserved the court’s attention. Any court-ordered increase in overall revenues should be accompanied by enough re-distribution of wealth to keep the tax bases equitable, so said the rich-district attorneys in court.

Smells like catfish bait in August when the property-rich districts suddenly join the state’s effort to get inside the jurisdiction of the all-Republican Supreme Court, as MALDEF is trying to finish up its equity advocacy at the trial-court level. The rich districts already have the ruling they need from the trial court, don’t they? They’ve got their constitutional issue in the pocket that mandates more overall funding at higher tax rates. Why do they suddenly need to speed up the appeal?

“The issue of equitable access to revenues for maintenance and operations funding has yet to be fully rendered by the trial court, yet the property-rich districts think certain issues should be yanked up by the Supreme Court?” asks Hinojosa in a question punctuated by 500 years of exasperation.

Hinojosa wears his tired voice like a black-tie tuxedo some days, and he was formally weary in tone and cadence as he talked about the one-two punch of Wednesday-Thursday motions filed by state attorneys and rich districts who are suddenly rushing into each other at the Supreme Court door.

It’s plain as day to us lowly observers of Texas politics that a deal has been cut to enrich the richies and cut the poor folks out at the final buzzer. It’s the only theory that makes sense. Only thing at this point for us know-nothings is to ask: is it a done deal yet? When everybody gets back from the parties in Washington, we’ll see. But you won’t get the headline from the usual media publishers, so please stay tuned.

Meanwhile the solidarity chant of the moment seems pretty clear to me: finish the trial court business you black-boot Texas lawyers, before you go the appeal.

Note: motions filed by the Texas Attorney General and the West Orange Cove Plaintiffs are available in pdf format at the Downloads section of the Texas Civil Rights Review: http://texascivilrightsreview.org/phpnuke

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

 

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Jack Rasmus
US Government Shutdown: Democrats Blink…Again
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail