State Senator Tommy Williams and Representative Alan Ritter have filed legislation that would make it illegal for public school districts to own, operate, or lease hotels, apparently in response to just such an effort proposed by Beaumont ISD a few months back.

It turns out the district will not be going ahead with the plan, as they have decided this is not the best time to execute a highly experimental public/private business partnership. On the one hand, that is understandable. To say education is in a state of unrest in Texas would be a serious understatement, what with school finance undergoing a reform process as we speak, coupled with the over-all state budget concerns.

On the other hand, this move by Beaumont, and counter move by the legislature, begs the question- do school districts really need additional revenues? In the case of this hotel and events center, Beaumont found a way to get the business community involved with their schools, at no cost to the tax payer, and for potential financial gain at the district level. There is no problem with that, in and of itself. However, it implies that Beaumont feels it needs more money to educate effectively. The Foundation’s research suggests that more money doesn’t always equate to better results in education. Rep. Ritter and Sen. Williams may not feel that this sort of business venture is what school districts should be spending their resources on. Perfectly understandable if that is the case. But the real question here is whether those districts need the extra revenues they are pursuing.

-James Golsan