Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Editorial: No Excuses to Not Fund Public Education

A rosy budget situation brought about by an increase in tax collections plus a Rainy Day Fund that’s flush with more than $15 billion of taxpayer cash means that Texas lawmakers have no excuses for not funding public education in this legislative session.

A new editorial in the San Antonio Express-News notes that any fix to public education funding must be sustainable. “It’s paramount public education funding is tied to dedicated funding sources. It can’t come permanently from the state’s rainy day fund, or from extra money announced at the beginning of the legislative session.”

Some state leaders have proposed a 2.5 percent cap on property taxes for school districts along with increased state funding. “Such a cap is far too low,” the editorial notes. “So, on one hand, the state would increase spending. But on the other hand, local school districts would also be out billions. Clearly, this is not a winning formula—and should not be pursued.”

Texas’ economic future depends on skilled workers who successfully pursue advanced or vocational degrees. “The state’s future economy, the experts say, will need this level of educated workers,” the editorial reads.

“There are no excuses for lawmakers to yet again fail on this issue,” it concludes.

Read “No excuses to not fund public education, other priorities,” San Antonio Express-News.

January 17, 2019

Huberty: School Finance Is a Top Priority

At the start of the 86th Session of the Texas Legislature, most leaders are in agreement that fixing school finance is a top priority. The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith interviewed Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), on that topic for a new weekly podcast focused on the Legislature. Huberty is the former chair of the House Public Education Committee and the odds-on favorite to resume that role. He was also a member of the Texas School Finance Commission. He talks at length about how the state could address school funding, the work of the commission, and whether this is the session when a the Legislature comes up with a serious school finance overhaul.

Listen to Point of Order, Texas Tribune.

January 15, 2019

Podcast: A Look Ahead at the 86th Legislature

Listen to Episode 24 of the TASB Talks podcast for a preview of the upcoming legislative session. Dax Gonzalez of TASB Governmental Relations gives a preview some legislative hot topics: school finance reform, vouchers, school safety, Hurricane Harvey recovery, and charter schools.

January 9, 2019

Tap Rainy Day Fund to Help Texas Public Schools

A new commentary in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times lays out a strong case for long-term investment in public education, including tapping the $12 billion Rainy Day Fund.

According to Texas Education Agency data, the state is spending 10.7 percent less per student than it was spending in 2010 (after adjusting for inflation). The authors note that Texas’ more than 1,200 school districts differ in size, location, teacher labor markets, and student diversity and economic need. Those details matter in determining the resources each district needs. They call for a flexible school finance system that addresses district needs in a long-term, sustainable way.

“All Texans regardless of political party need to recognize that public education is an investment in the community’s future. These investments are not just about what a child learns today, but about the future of our state to produce productive and engaged workers and neighbors,” they add.

They contend that state lawmakers should stop relying on rising property values to limit the state’s investment in public education and tap the $12 billion Rainy Day Fund for public education. “…Part of the reason that money exists is due to the persistent underfunding of Texas public schools,” the authors write.

Read “Tap Rainy Day Fund to Help Texas Schools,” by David DeMatthews and David S. Knight, Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

January 7, 2019

Understanding Texas School Finance

The Texas Legislature kicks off its 86th session next week, and school finance promises to be one of the issues that will get some attention. Many legislators have said that fixing the way Texas funds schools is the most important issue of the session.

Public schools are currently funded using a complex formula that’s been in place since 1993. A video by Raise Your Hand Texas does an excellent job of explaining the problem with school finance today and what can be done to fix it.

Watch “The Basics of School Finance” by Raise Your Hand Texas.

January 4, 2019

Students Pay the Price as School Funding Drops

A new commentary by Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, notes that the number crunchers at the Legislative Budget Board and comptroller’s office don’t have a political agenda on school finance. Both have documented the fact that the state government’s share of funding for public education has dropped, and will reach an historic low of 38 percent in 2019.

Candelaria dismantles the arguments of public education critics who oppose additional funding for public schools. “Money matters in determining educational opportunities. It matters in class sizes…Money determines how well-equipped classrooms are, how up-to-date instructional materials are, and how experienced and prepared teachers are,” Candelaria writes.

“We can invest in all students and provide property tax relief. But we can’t impose tax limits that handcuff local officials and jeopardize public services, as the governor, lieutenant governor, and [Texas Public Policy Foundation] propose. The effective way to lower property taxes is for the state to increase its share of education funding,” Candelaria writes.

Candelaria suggests tapping Texas’ $12 billion Rainy Day Fund to get started. “The cost of not changing the school finance system would be tragic, in terms of lost opportunities for millions of school children, and a drag on Texas’ future,” Candelaria writes.

Read “Yes, the state’s share of education funding is dropping, and the victims are our kids,” by Noel Candelaria, TribTalk.

January 2, 2019

Texas Is Shirking Its Responsibility to Fund Public Schools

A new article in the Rio Grande Guardian says that property-poor and -rich districts in Texas agree that the state is shirking its responsibility to fund public schools.

“The only way we have ever been able to fix this has been to sue the state of Texas,” said Missy Bender, board president for property-rich Plano ISD. Following the last successful school finance lawsuit, the state funded about 50 percent of the cost of public education. Since then, the state has steadily reduced its share of the total cost to 38 percent. Bender said Plano ISD will be bankrupt in four years if the state continues to decrease its investment in public schools.

Chandra Villanueva, program director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the state hasn’t done anything to maintain its level of investment since 2004‒05. Also, local tax dollars go in first, putting poor and rich districts at a disadvantage. “…You are able to fill your own bucket sooner. So, we are not letting our school districts share in the state’s economic prosperity, unlike cities and counties who see an increase in their revenues when development happens. It is the state that benefits, not our schools,” Villanueva said.

Bender feels that the state is at a tipping point. “I feel like the education, business, parent, and community organizations are all coming together to say you must place your attention on this topic. We care about education in Texas and if we don’t address this now, when will we?” Bender said.

Read “School officials: State of Texas is shirking its responsibility for public education funding,” by Steve Taylor, Rio Grande Guardian.

December 19, 2018

Delegate Assembly: State Must Fund Public Schools

At TASA/TASB Convention, school board members from across the state met as delegates to TASB’s Delegate Assembly. TASB Executive Director James B. Crow noted in his December Texas Lone Star column that delegates called on state legislators to do the right thing and pay the state’s fair share of public education costs.

The Advocacy Agenda priority related to public school funding reads:

“TASB calls upon state legislators to share the costs of funding public schools by providing at least 50 percent of Foundation School Program formula funding to reduce overreliance on local property taxes. The state must stop supplanting the state’s prior-year contribution with increases in local property tax revenue.”

Public schools need more than just school board members to be advocates. “Don’t sit on the sidelines in our schools’ time of great need,” Crow writes. “You can help by sending a letter to your lawmakers, urging them to adequately fund public schools.” An easy way to do that is to go to the Texans for Strong Public Schools website.

Read “Note to the Legislature: Do What’s Right” by James. B. Crow, Texas Lone Star.

December 17, 2018

Legislators Call for More State Funding for Public Education

Waco state Representatives Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco) and Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) recently talked with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on a variety of issues, including public education funding.

“Better funding for public education is the solution to 80 percent of the state’s problems,” Kacal told a group gathered at the Baylor Club. “…You can’t make valid and good decisions unless you’re educated and know how to read,” Kacal said.

Anderson said that education is a “convoluted issue” but said that the state’s share of public education funding needs to increase.

Read “Waco’s state representatives talk education finance with Texas Tribune CEO” by Lauren Dodd, Waco Tribune-Herald.

December 10, 2018

Voters Oppose Private School Vouchers

State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) believes that voters agree with his opposition to private school vouchers, and the midterm election results show it.

He recently reminded the audience at a legislative preview in Austin that he was one of two Republicans in the Texas Senate to vote against private school voucher legislation in 2017. Seliger easily defeated two opponents in the primary election and one person in the midlterm election in November.

“What I tell them is first and foremost represent your district,” he said of his conversations with Republican lawmakers. “No matter what you are told by other people here or third-party groups, listen to the people in your districts.”

Read “GOP lawmaker who fought school vouchers says voters proved his point,” by Jeremy Wallace, Houston Chronicle.

December 4, 2018