In 1875, Texans gathered to rewrite their state constitution, largely borrowing from the Constitution of 1845. Part of their motivation in doing so was to roll back what the majority of Texans then viewed as the excesses of Reconstruction-era government.
Now, here’s where things get complicated. Delegates expressed the view, common in the day, that the education of children was the primary responsibility of parents. Further, as might be expected in the times, many white property owners didn’t support the idea of their taxes going to finance the education of black children. Lastly, as was more common in the South than in the nation at large, Texans were suspicious of powerful central government.* In this context, the constitutional delegates approved language calling for “…the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” “Public” at the time meant open to the general public, rather than run by the government as its come to mean today.
Many of the constitutional delegates in 1875 wished to overturn the Radical Republicans’ Reconstruction-era provisions for the state financing of public schools. As a result, Texas schools and their finance became more decentralized than was the case during the height of Reconstruction-era policies from 1869 to 1876.
Interestingly, this decentralization may have had an unintended effect: the ratio of per pupil expenditures for black students as compared to white students was actually higher in 1910 (0.63:1) than in 1935 (0.50:1) when the modern system of government-run public schools was more firmly established.**Put another way, centralized, government-run schools for a time-at least until the advent of the modern civil rights movement-appeared to result in greater public education funding inequities than did the more decentralized system of public education that preceded it.
* Texas History course materials, “Republicanism and Reunion,” Texas A&M University, Texarkana, see: http://www.tamut.edu/academics/mperri/TX/Texas%20History%206–Republicanism%20and%20Reunion.ppt .
**”Race and Schooling in the South, 1880-1950: An Economic History,” Robert A. Margo, University of Chicago Press, 1990, see: http://www.nber.org/chapters/c8792.pdf .