The Consequences from Mandating Egalitarian Education Funding (Part Three)
My previous posts on this topic, I & II, reflected on the reasoning and fallout from the judicial mandating of parity in school funding in the Lone Star State. In this final post on the topic of Edgewood, I will elaborate on the unfortunate legacy of that decision, and speculate about the reasons for its continued vitality as a precedent.
Judicial activism is bad in the abstract because it alters the proper balance of power among the branches of government, diminishes democracy, and abuses the rule of law. In the case of Edgewood, the problems are not just abstract, but concrete. Due to the court’s arrogation of a political role, fiscal priorities have been distorted; more money is spent on K-12 education, at the expense of competing demands for taxpayer funds—public safety, transportation, health care, etc. Because Texas has neither a state income tax nor a state property tax, the Legislature—in order to meet the court’s mandate for increased education spending —was forced to enact unpopular taxes such as the much-maligned business franchise (or “margin”) tax, and to surreptitiously redistribute property tax revenue from “rich” school districts to “poor” ones (under the aptly nicknamed “Robin Hood” law). Public school spending has gone up, but not with a commensurate improvement in academic achievement.
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