School finance trial shifts focus to efficiency
Excerpt from the article by the Associated Press, published in The Courier:
The sweeping case challenging how Texas public schools are funded entered a new phase Tuesday, now focusing on efficiency with testimony from a suburban Fort Worth mother who home-schooled her fifth-grader for a year because there was no space at a local charter school.
In the final weeks of the case brought by more than 600 school districts against the state, attorneys are trying to define what qualifies as the most efficient way for Texas to spend money on public schools. They’d like to see more charter schools and reforms that would allow for more competition to prevent public schools from holding what they call a monopoly.
Later Tuesday, Paul Hill, founder and now senior staff member at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, testified. He focused on how public schools operate under mandates, which he said “limits their flexibility in problem solving.”
Hill said state class-size limits, requirements for teacher certification and salary schedules are not necessarily problematic on their own but combine to restrict public schools’ abilities to make the changes that are necessary to improve.
“In almost any other enterprise ... the management has the ability to make human resources changes to become more effective,” Hill said. He said that if he were a principal and couldn’t make staffing changes, “then the thing that matters most in my school is already decided by someone else.”