KRVS

Laura Isensee

They are early risers and hard workers. They have a "talent for struggling through" and the determination that follows. Some are the first in their family to go to college — or even graduate from high school — and many are financially independent from their parents. They're often struggling to pay for rent, groceries and transportation while taking classes. And that means working while in school — in retail, on campus or even with a lawn care business.

It's 5 o'clock in the morning, and Sarah Salazar would rather be sleeping. Not just because it's early. Or because she's a teenager and can't seem to get enough sleep. Doctors say the shotgun pellets embedded in her shoulder, lung and back have sent her lead levels skyrocketing and leave her feeling tired much of the time.

When teachers and activists demanded schools in Texas, where more than half of the public school students are Hispanic, teach more Mexican-American studies, the State Board of Education responded by calling for more textbooks on the subject.

So far, though, the only book submitted for approval has drawn fierce criticism.

This week, activists voiced that criticism in front of the Texas Board of Education in a public hearing in Austin. Dozens attended, with some driving hours to the capital from Dallas, Houston and other parts of the state.

The Texas Supreme Court just doesn't want to get involved in how the state pays for its public schools. That was the signal the nine justices sent Friday when they unanimously ruled the state school funding system, which historically has been one of the country's most controversial, constitutional.

In 1973, in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that there was no federal right to equal school funding in the Constitution.

That was more than 40 years ago, and today Patty Rodriguez, a teacher in the same school district in San Antonio where that fight started, says nothing has changed.

Her father, Demetrio Rodriguez, filed the suit. It became a landmark case, a turning point when the focus around school funding shifted from the federal government to the states.