STAFF EDITORIAL: Gubernatorial candidates would be wise to heed education issue

With 2010 fast approaching, Texas gubernatorial candidates have increased their efforts to let voters know where they stand on important issues before the March primary.

Here’s to hoping that the candidates don’t hold back on one of the most important problems facing the state – funding for the public school system.

This issue is practically unavoidable. The state has 4.4 million students and a $35 billion public school system that includes many districts that are shackled by budget problems, the Associated Press reported.

With enrollment and operating costs set to increase and voters reluctant to pay higher taxes to make up for the shortfalls, the state’s next governor is going to face a serious challenge when it comes to overhauling the public school system.

The school districts receive their funding through a combination of local property taxes, a state business tax and cigarette taxes. But revised formulas made it difficult for wealthier districts to continue receive their normal funding, so the state inserted a provision in a 2006 law that kept the rate of state funding to districts the same as it would have been that year, the Associated Press reported.

This is a hot-button topic that could make or break a campaign. So far, Gov. Rick Perry and his main opponent in the Republican primary, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, are taking a cautionary approach to this issue. The Democratic candidates haven’t offered any comprehensive plans for reform of the system.

Even in the face of a possible budget crisis, Perry isn’t advocating that more money be allotted for the public school system. Hutchison also hasn’t said much, except that our’ system won’t work in the long term.

Of course, this system is not a viable solution.

That’s why Texans should press gubernatorial candidates to offer more details and fewer empty statements about their plans to fix the public school system. Texans have legitimate questions about this issue, and candidates should be prepared to answer them.

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