On this day in 1837, the first steamboat to ascend Buffalo Bayou above Harrisburg brought Augustus C. and John K. Allen and a number of other prominent Texans to the new capital of Houston. The Laura was built in Louisville, Kentucky, for use on the Brazos by Thomas F. McKinney and Samuel M. Williams. After her arrival in Texas in June 1835 she had a notable career. In September 1835 the Laura towed the armed schooner San Felipe to engage and capture the Mexican cruiser Correo, which had been seizing United States vessels calling at Texas ports. In April 1836 the Laura took vice president Lorenzo de Zavala and secretary of the treasury Bailey Hardeman to the site of the battle of San Jacinto; they were the first officials to arrive there from Galveston Island. The vessel remained in government service through September 1836, when McKinney and Williams resumed using her to gather Brazos River cotton. In June 1840 she broke both shafts on a bar in the Brazos River and was towed into port. Her subsequent fate is unknown.
On this day in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, a Texas case. The court established a right to abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment. The issues involved in the case are still being hotly debated. The "Roe" in the case, for instance, travels the country speaking in opposition to the court's decision; while abortion-rights groups do their utmost to shield Roe v. Wade from any revision.
On this day in 1883, the Fifty Cent Act was repealed. The act, advocated by Governor O. M. Roberts and passed in July 1879, provided for the selling of Texas land for fifty cents an acre, with one-half of the proceeds to be used to pay down the public debt and the other half to establish a permanent school fund. The act opened to settlement about fifty-two Texas counties, in which the state sold 3,201,283 acres for $1,600,641.55. The Fifty Cent Act was repealed as a public necessity due to fraudulent land speculation.
On this day in 1991, in the landmark civil-rights case Edgewood ISD v. Kirby, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state's system of public school funding was unconstitutional. The case began in 1984 when the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit against state education commissioner William Kirby on behalf of the Edgewood Independent School District, citing discrimination against students in poor school districts. The plaintiffs contested the state's reliance on local property taxes to finance its system of public education, contending that this method was intrinsically unequal. In 1989 the Texas Supreme Court ordered the state legislature to implement a new system by the 1990-91 school year. The legislature finally reached consensus in June 1990 and approved a bill to increase state support to public schools by $528 million. The plaintiffs, however, were dissatisfied and asked for another hearing in the Travis County District Court, which agreed that the new legislation did not provide "substantially" equal access to public school funds, and instructed the legislators to come up with another system. The state appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Following the January 22 ruling, the legislature devised a new plan that consolidated the state's 1,058 school districts into 188 county education districts to assure that public money spent per student would be equal. Exactly one year later, however, on January 22, 1992, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the new plan was illegal. In May 1993, the legislature passed a multi-option plan for reforming school finance. The Texas Supreme Court eventually ruled that the options plan was constitutional but that the legislature still needed to work on equalizing and improving school facilities throughout the state.