Allen Weeks writes in the Austin American-Statesman that Texas schools are broken. They are desperately underfunded by a legislature that cut $5.4 billion from the state school budget in 2011. When the economy improved, instead of restoring the money they took from the schools, they cut business taxes. Now, the leadership thinks they can substitute vouchers and choice for the damage done by budget cuts. The courts in Texas say the legislature is wrong. So does common sense.

“Last year, the Texas Supreme Court called our state’s school funding system awful, inadequate and basically a mess – yet still ruled that it met some minimum standard for Texas students. When I asked one legislator to explain this, he said that only three or four people in Texas understood the school finance system — and he wasn’t one of them. Another legislator told me that it’s not about the funding, because if a teacher is good, he or she could just teach “under an ol’ shade tree.” Neither conversation inspired confidence.

I’ve talked with many Texans about school funding, and here’s what they say:

• We underfund Texas schools.

• The system for sharing it is totally screwed up.

• Property taxes are way too high.

“So let’s sit together under the shade tree and examine these points.

“Not enough funding. You need more than a shade tree to prepare students for today’s economy. But if you get what you pay for, Texas is clearly shortchanging its future.

“In 2011, Texas cut $5.4 billion from public education that was never fully restored. Since 2006, statewide enrollment has increased by 16.8 percent, though funding increases lag at 7.4 percent. In 2015, the state cut business and other taxes by $4 billion, resulting in a self-made budget crisis this session. With possible federal budget cuts looming, the situation for Texas students is dire.

“Texas is 43rd in the country in per-pupil funding, though it invests heavily in incarceration. Massachusetts is similar to Texas in student diversity, immigration and other demographics, but its superior investment in education — seventh from the top — has paid off with the nation’s highest academic ranking and one of the lowest incarceration rates. If we’re to stay competitive, Texas can and must do better.”