Jim Shear, widely considered the intellectual father of the modern Texas school finance system, succumbed Wednesday, April 12, 2006, to an aggressive form of throat cancer after a lengthy, heroic struggle. He was 53.
Jim passed away peacefully surrounded by his immediate family and close friends.
Born in Fort Worth, Jim came to Austin in 1970 to attend the University of Texas. His love of politics and interest in government led him to a part-time job with the secretary of state's office, where he met the three individuals who provided a lasting influence on his professional life: then-Secretary of State Bob Bullock, Randall Buck Wood and Donald Ray.
Jim, along with Wood and Ray, joined Bullock on the state comptroller's staff when Bullock was first elected to that office in 1974. In 1984, Bullock tapped Jim to head the comptroller's fiscal research staff in devising new school finance solutions as part of the Select Committee on Public Education chaired by H. Ross Perot.
As the comptroller's lead staff member to the Perot Commission, Shear immersed himself in the arcane intricacies of the ways Texans paid for public education and established ongoing relationships with the leadership of the Texas public school community. Jim played a leading role in the enactment of the Perot reforms that improved the education of a full generation of young Texans.
Jim's dedication to improving education for all Texas school children, especially the neediest, continued throughout his career. As the courts ruled on changes in the system throughout the ensuing decades, Jim was intimately involved in each courtroom challenge and legislative response.
In 1989, he left state service to become director of client services for the law firm that is now Ray, Wood, and Bonilla. Jim also served as tax policy consultant and legislative liaison for the Equity Center and for the Texas Association of School Boards. As comptroller and then lieutenant governor, Bullock continued their 30-year working relationship and never considered a question of school finance adequately answered without consulting Jim.
On June 24, 2002, Jim joined Bullock, Wood and a select few others in receiving the coveted Champions of Equity Award from the Equity Center, acknowledging his service to quality and equity in Texas public education.
The family is sincerely grateful for the support and love of Jim's close friends during his lengthy illness and to his caregivers at home and the Hospice Austin staff. They would also like to thank all of these people for their kind and giving attention to Jim, especially the past few months.
Jim was predeceased by his grandparents, William Earl Justin, co-founder of Justin Boot Company of Fort Worth and Florence Humphreys Justin and Cecil and Frances Douglass Shear; his father, James Douglass Shear; and niece, Kristi Lynn Shear.
Survivors: His mother, Ruth Justin Shear of Fort Worth; daughter, Logan Elizabeth Shear of Austin; sister, Linda Rieber and brother-in-law, Christopher Rieber of North Tustin, Calif.; brother, Douglas Shear of Addison; nephews, Clinton Rieber and family of Orange, Calif., Gregory Rieber and family of Monument, Colo.; and niece, Tracy Lee Elmore and family of Georgetown Del.
Published in the Star-Telegram on 4/16/2006.