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TX Rep. Escobar: 'Equal' Doesn't Always Mean 'Adequate'

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

"Equal" doesn't necessarily mean "adequate," according to State Rep. Juan Escobar (D-Kingsville).

Last week, Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) sent letters to fellow House members explaining how his public school reform bill, HB 2, will increase equity in public schools.

In his letter, he said that HB 2 would increase to 96 percent the number of students in Texas who would be in an equalized system, where the figure today is only 81 percent. He also notes that his legislation, if passed, will increase to 99 percent, from the current 95 percent, the percent of revenue in an equalized system.

However, Escobar says in a letter to Grusendorf today that although HB 2 does bring more students into an equalized system and substantially improves the guaranteed yield in Tier Two, "They are not enough."

While Grusendorf hailed his bill as providing a 96 percent degree of equity, Escobar says he and other House members "question how we can justify any system that is structured to automatically give some of Texas' children an advantage over others."

Saying he does not believe state government can do anything to produce an equal outcome for all of the state's schoolchildren, Escobar said that does not justify a system that denies the majority of Texas children an "equal opportunity" to develop their potential simply because of where they children live. He notes that many of Texas' children live in property-poor school districts and the state is not willing to provide funding to put all districts on an equal footing.

"The said fact is," said Escobar, "that a system can be 'equalized' and there can be 'equity' in access to funding, but it can still be inadequate," and the State Constitution requires that all schoolchildren be provided an "adequate" public school education.

Escobar said HB 2 provides a "nearly equal opportunity" for an "inadequate number of dollars" and does not provide adequate funding.

He alleges that Grusendorf's views are those of a representative of "relatively well-to-do" districts while his own views are shaped by more than a dozen years of service on the boards of two of the state's poorest school districts where they are faced with "a day-to-day battle" to "stretch too few dollars and two few resources" to make ends meet.

Escobar said the provisions of HB may be "adequate" for the districts Grusendorf represents, but added that those districts "could not be more different than those in my district if they were located on a different world."

He then cited a number of examples of how the two House districts differ - from level of education of the adult population, to the percentage of residents who live below the poverty level, to unemployment rates.

"A good education is the only chance the students in my district have to change the difference between their world and yours," wrote Escobar. He said HB 2 not only fails to take many of the factors that differentiate one district from another, but also failed to even provide funding standards recommended in a state-commissioned study.

Escobar noted even the richest school districts in the state say the legislation provides more than $1 billion less than is needed, and is thus "not one I can support."

Grusendorf is expected to file a committee substitute for HB 2 this week, one which Escobar says he is hopeful "more accurately reflects the needs of our schools."