Texas Education

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‘Robin Hood’ law touches record number of schools

Posted by Texas Education on August 20, 2008

With diesel fuel prices and utility bills at all-time highs, area school districts are pinching pennies — from raising lunch prices to charging teachers for a classroom mini-fridge — to cover increasing costs. Three areas are the hardest-hit: food, utilities and transportation. Many administrators say Texas’ complicated education-funding formula doesn’t help schools pay the bills. The amount the state pays a district per pupil is based on data 1 to 2 years old and doesn’t reflect the fluctuating price of fuel, they say. “All school districts are in the same boat,” said Ron Wilson, chief financial officer for Fort Worth schools. “We all have to look at different ways of maintaining costs. We have to tell the community exactly what’s going on.”

As I am doing here, letting the community know exactly what is going on. I’m shocked and extremely dismayed at what is happening to our schools in ALL of Texas. Who’s fault is it? As this article says the Robin Hood program was only until the lege was able to come up with a new funding system.

I like what Mr. Branch says, whose legislative district includes two higher-wealth districts – Dallas and Highland Park.

“It’s time for the state to step up and properly fund education, and not allow the divisiveness we’ve had among our school districts to continue, where we take money from some and give it to others,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t make sense to have our two largest school districts – Dallas and Houston – deemed to be property-wealthy when they’re not wealthy at all.”

TEXAS’ SHARE-THE-WEALTH FINANCE LAW

WHAT IT IS

When a school district’s property wealth per student exceeds a certain amount, it is required to share some of its property tax revenue with less-wealthy districts. The goal – affirmed by the Texas Supreme Court – is to make certain no district has a significant advantage in per-pupil funding simply because of its property wealth.

HOW IT WORKS

Higher-wealth districts have five options for sharing property taxes, but most either send funds directly to the state or contract with a low-wealth district to pay part of the cost of educating their students.In the 2008-09 school year, high-property-wealth (Chapter 41) districts will be affected in two ways:

•Those with property wealth of more than $319,500 per student – 269 districts – will likely have to share revenue if they raise their property tax rates above $1.06 per $100 valuation. Most districts were at $1.04 last year.

•Those with property wealth of more than $374,200 per student – 220 districts – will have to share revenue in varying amounts depending on how much they’re above the threshold, even if they don’t raise tax rates.

LEGISLATIVE RELIEF?

Legislators could reduce the amount of “recaptured” revenue by raising those thresholds or reducing the maximum school property tax rate, but that would require the state to put more money into the funding system. Some lawmakers want to use part of the state’s projected budget surplus next year to do that.

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