Why is the State’s Share of Public School Funding Shrinking?

“It’s almost like things are frozen in time.”

By Sally BeauvaisMay 1, 2017 9:30 am| , , ,

From Marfa Public Radio

Every year, the state of Texas and local school districts pay more and more for public education. Together, they’ll spend a projected $46 billion on Texas schools in 2017. That money comes from two main places: the state government, and local property taxes. But that burden isn’t shared equally and Texas’s decades-old school funding formula isn’t keeping up with the state’s growing population.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court called the funding system “Byzantine” and urged legislators to work on, quote “transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid.” That seems to be the push lawmakers needed to take school funding seriously in 2017.

As the state’s share of the school funding pie chart continues to decline, listener Angela Greca wondered: why do our property taxes go up every year, but the amount that the state spend per student does not?

Greca works with bilingual students at Richardson ISD, just outside of Dallas, and has two kids in the school district. Her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia last year, and gets extra help in the classroom. She’s concerned that special programs like the one her daughter’s in will be the first to go if the state doesn’t increase its spending.

So why doesn’t the state spend more? According to Chandra Villanueva at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, the simple answer is they’re just following the formula.

“What we’ve been seeing happening is that our school finance formulas aren’t adjusted for things like inflation and rising property values across the state. So it’s almost like things are frozen in time,” Villanueva said.

Over time, according to State Representative Dan Huberty, we’ve let rising local property tax revenue fill in that gap created by the formulas.

“And so we basically, we’ve shifted the cost for funding of education from the state to the locals,” Huberty said on the House floor last month.

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