Thursday, January 17, 2008

THUMP!! The Texas School Law Bulletin 2008

The 2008 version of the Texas School Law Bulletin just landed on my desk with a hearty THUMP. 1,721 pages. That's a lot of law.

This tome has been a part of my life for a long time. When I was a pup, trying to find my way in the world of school law, I made sure to carry the School Law Bulletin with me at all times. I carried it prominently, to be sure that people would notice that I was carrying it. The theory was that people--potential clients--would see me, see the book, and make the connection. "Oh," they would think, "that young fella must be a lawyer."

Every profession has its symbols. Preachers carry a Bible. Teachers carry books. Coaches have whistles. I guess baseball players carry syringes. This makes it easy for us to associate the person with the profession.

But I'm not going to lug around this bad boy. The 2006 version was 1,542 pages. The 2008 version is 179-pages longer. My desk sags under its weight. No way does it go in my briefcase.

The book keeps getting bigger because the laws keep coming. If you want concrete proof that your life has become more complicated, the School Law Bulletin will do the job. I think it would be a great service to the education profession for someone to go through all 1,721 pages and count the number of duties the law imposes on someone other than a classroom teacher. This would be a terrific doctoral dissertation.

What would the point of that be? To refute those who say we do not need school administrators. To educate those who do not understand that schools are required to do so many things that cannot be done by the teacher in the classroom.

Critics of public education are fond of criticizing our supposedly "bloated bureaucracies." But if they would take the time to identify the legal mandates that SOMEONE has to comply with, they would see that there is a need. Moreover, they might see that the bureaucracy that exists did not spring up out of a vacuum--it is there to respond to legal mandates imposed by the Texas legislature, state agencies and the feds.

If Texas wants leaner, more efficiently run school districts, it could begin by adopting a moratorium on any new laws or regulations impacting local school districts. But we don't look for that anytime soon.

Furthermore, the School Law Bulletin doesn't even tell the whole story. Its 1,721 pages contain only the statutes passed by the Texas legislature. It does not include the federal laws, or the state regulations.

The good news for us lawyers is that with all these laws, it looks like you will continue to need us. We're grateful for the work. But we won't be hauling this book around with us anymore.