The Texas Constitution of 1876’s “public free schools” were not state-run
AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation today released Texas Education: Original Intent of Texas Constitution. Written by the Honorable Kent Grusendorf, Senior Fellow for Education, the paper examines the history of education policy in Texas. It focuses especially on the original intent of the Texas Constitution’s requirement for the state legislature’s “support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” Grusendorf explains that to 21st-century ears the phrase “public free schools” implies state control — but in 1876 it connoted almost total parental control and choice.
“Clearly by any reasonable analysis of original intent our founders did intend to empower parents and communities to make decisions relative to the education of their students,” said Grusendorf. “In fact, during the 1875 constitutional debate related to the issue of centralized control over education, one delegate, Mr. Sansom, said; ‘I do not hesitate to say that I believe there could not be found a dozen members of this Convention who would affirm their belief in the existence of such power in the State.’”
“Yet today, most Texans think the original intent of our Texas Constitution was just the opposite.”
The Honorable Kent Grusendorf, Senior Fellow for Education, represented Arlington in the Texas Legislature for twenty years, focusing on education. Serving on the House Public Education Committee and various Select Committees, he played a significant role in crafting legislative responses to the Edgewood I, Edgewood II, Edgewood III, Edgewood IV, and West Orange Cove school-finance court decisions.