Sam Houston Elementary teacher Roxanna Shimotsu helped change the future of Texas Public Education by sharing her passion for student success.
Shimotsu, who teaches bilingual second grade, along with teachers and superintendents from across Texas provided their testimony in November on behalf of students across the state in the school finance trial. Their statements supported the issue of underfunding in public schools. The school finance trial involved more than two-thirds of Texas school districts and most of its charter schools. It is the sixth time in the last 40 years that Texas has had to address how it funds public schools.
With her participation, she hoped for officials to understand from an educator’s perspective the importance of resources in education, she said.
“The message was that the education of the children in our schools should come first,” Shimotsu said. “ We have to look to the future, because the world is getting smaller. For our students to succeed, we need to prepare our students better and have the resources to do so.”
On Feb. 4, Shimotsu’s efforts paid off as State District Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state’s school finance system. Judge Dietz ruled the school finance system fails to adequately or efficiently fund public schools, and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level. He lastly noted, the level of funding in public schools is unfitting for providing a general diffusion of knowledge for low-income and English Language Learners.
Before providing his official decision, Judge Dietz recalled the impact of Shimotsu’s statement of having to buy pencils for her students, and how that prompted him to read about the Sam Houston’s chess team’s trip to the national tournament. He called the team’s story a, “perfect illustration of what I call the miracle of education.”
Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District administrators were honored to hear Shimotsu’s statements were instrumental in the decision favoring public schools.
“It’s monumental for our students, teachers and district to have had a voice through Roxanna Shimotsu as she delivered testimony in the state’s public school funding trial, “ said Superintendent Dr. Steve Flores. “It speaks to the impact that effective teachers have in the courtroom as well as in the classroom. We are proud of Mrs. Shimotsu’s dedication and commitment to student achievement.”
Although unable to make it to the ruling, Shimotsu anxiously waited for official decision, and was surprised to learn that her testimony was mentioned during his remarks. Regardless of her mention, she was ecstatic over the decision; because she has witnessed what increased resources can do for students, she said.
The decision is one that brings hope to many Texas public schools. For Shimotsu, she looks forward to seeing the effect it will have for students and teachers across the state.
“For Texas public education, I would hope that it’s going to raise the overall academic achievement in our students,” Shimotsu said. “I know that if teachers feel that they have the resources necessary to educate the children it will help them to provide more opportunities for students to succeed.”
To see the Judge’s full statements click here.