April Castro, AP, amarillo.com
AUSTIN — Helping non-English speaking students meet state standards is the greatest challenge facing cash-strapped Dallas schools, Superintendent Mike Moses testified Wednesday during a trial challenging the state’s school finance system.
The growing population costs almost twice as much to educate because students require intensive instruction, smaller class sizes and sometimes individualized lessons. The district, Moses said, doesn’t have the resources to give those students the attention they need.
“The language barrier in our city is huge and getting bigger and our success or failure in improving student achievement is going to be largely determined by how well we deal with this population,” Moses told state District Judge John Dietz.
Moses was the second witness to testify in the case brought by hundreds of school districts challenging the state’s method of paying for public education.
As many as 35 percent of the students in Dallas schools do not speak fluent English, more than twice the state average, which hovers around 15 percent, Moses said. In the Dallas district, 66 different languages are spoken, he said.
Many districts in the state, like Dallas, are taxing at the legal limit, and have no source of additional money to address growing budget demands such as higher immigrant populations and tougher state expectations.
The suing districts say the current share-the-wealth system amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax and still doesn’t provide enough money to adequately educate Texas’ 4.3 million students.
State attorneys argue that the system satisfies the minimum requirements set forth in the Texas Constitution and an overhaul of the so-called Robin Hood system is the responsibility of the state Legislature, not a court.
The trial could last more than a month and any ruling by Dietz is expected to be appealed.