By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
The Hays and San Marcos school districts dodged a bullet Tuesday night, when the Wimberley school district decided to save itself from state-mandated extinction.
Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott told the Wimberley district that he would consolidate Wimberley with either Hays or San Marcos if it didn’t make its first equalization installment of $349,422 on or before Friday. The Wimberley trustees voted, 6-1, to make the payment under protest.
No one at the Hays or San Marcos school districts wanted to even contemplate the logistical nightmare of consolidation with Wimberley, and the Wimberley trustees felt the same.
The 2,000-student Wimberley school district is one of 30 in Texas with between 1,600 and 5,000 students that qualifies as property rich. That means Wimberley has to share property tax revenue with property-poor districts, but it’s also too small to realize the economies of scale that would make its money go as efficiently as it would in a large district.
Thus, the Wimberley district is in a tough spot and one can’t blame its parents or property owners for raising their hackles. The state’s equalization formula cries for amendment to address districts in that predicament. But forcing the Hays or San Marcos districts to take those students would have solved no problems and raised several.
It’s not out of the question that the Wimberley students could attend Hays or San Marcos schools. Indeed, they attended San Marcos schools before the Hays district formed in 1967, and they attended Hays schools before breaking off to their own district in 1986.
However, the present cultural and political climate would have made Wimberley’s dissolution extremely uncomfortable for everyone. Like it, admit it, or not, an east-west divide has cropped up in Hays County. It shows up in countywide elections, it shows up on the commissioners court and it shows up among the most vocal speakers about recent transportation issues.
Some alarmists call it a “civil war,” but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s an inevitability of geography and infrastructure. The west has the hills, the high property values and the charming lives the east wishes it could maintain. But the east has Interstate-35 in times of traffic growth and has to make sense of it.
At some point, county leaders need to reach some kind of accommodation so the west can live as it wishes and the east can live as it must, but that’s a big, complicated job. Pouring Wimberley students and bus stops on the Hays or San Marcos school districts at this stage would have complicated matters that already are twisted enough.
So, the Hays and San Marcos school districts dodged a bullet. But, in reality, the potential for political peace throughout the county dodged that same bullet.