The Commerce Journal

February 4, 2013

Superintendent calls out unequal district funding

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — In recent months, public education funding has been the topic of discussion in Austin.

Last year, more than 600 Texas school districts sued the state because of $5.4 billion in cuts that were issued by the 82nd Texas Legislature in 2011.

Earlier this month, Bill Hammond, head of the Texas Association of Business, the largest business lobbying group in Texas, argued before Austin-based Judge John Dietz that only 25 percent of students graduating from Texas public schools are career- or college-ready.

Using the statistics from the Texas Education Agency, Hammond said that since students are not performing well, no more money needed to be put into public schools.

Blake Cooper, superintendent of Commerce Independant School District, said Hammond is using misleading statistics to make his case.

“He is taking his statistics off of this past STAAR test,” he said. “The state told us in advance we were going to have high failure rates. We didn’t even know what was going to be on the test and the state didn’t even know what they were going to set the passing rate as. That is not a true representation of what it is about.”

Cooper said that although the state cut much of the funding for schools and increased standardized testing, his teachers still find a way to teach children under the current constraints.

“Our teachers are going to do the best they can with what they have,” he said, but added that teachers would be able to do a better job if the school was funded better and did not have the strict standardized tests placed upon them. “There are a lot of things we can do with more money.”

According to Cooper, the question of unequal funding isn’t about politics, but about morals.

“It is ethically and morally wrong for the state to fund one district $7,000 and for Commerce to get $4,000 for the same student,” he said.

Judge Dietz is expected to make a ruling in the case on Feb. 4 in Austin.