State College Funding Turns on Definition of "Provide"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
The Texas Constitution says the state will “provide for the maintenance, support and direction of a University of the first class.” In 1984, that meant about half of every dollar in higher education came out of the state budget. Today, it’s closer to 13 percent at the University of Texas at Austin and 22 percent at Texas A&M University in College Station. So, at that level, is the state really providing for the sort of education championed in its founding document? That’s fodder for debate. Lawyers could probably generate a room full of words over the obligations imparted by the word “provide.” The bigger question is whether the state is doing enough, and whether doing enough — whatever that entails — necessarily requires more money. Public education is the subject of ongoing litigation over state financing and constitutional requirements and such, a recurring battle that is almost universally expected to end with lawmakers changing spending patterns and perhaps trying to find more money for schools. But that’s a different fight, because the state government is only part of a system that also includes local school districts that pay a share with locally raised taxes.

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