Sunday, October 23, 2011

Unreasonable Education Funding in Texas

The current lawsuit against the state of Texas has all the merit of a game-changing event; assuming it succeeds.  Earlier this year, the Texas state legislature passed extensive budget cuts to public education. And as a result, smaller districts suddenly found themselves on the short end of an extremely biased pubic education system.

This system is so intrinsically flawed, that in some instances there is a difference of at least $1800 PER STUDENT between two school districts of one Texas county (Bexar County).  The most shocking by far is a difference of almost $4500 per student between two West Texas districts!

The bulk of this difference essentially boils down to the disparity between school districts with high property values and those with very low property values.  The way this state distributes the public education funds is largely based on the tax dollars collected on property values.  These public funds are not, however, combined into one state coffer and allocated evenly.  That would be too simple, and far too fair for a state as conservative and Republican as Texas.

Instead of dispensing the total value of the taxes collected on a per-student basis, our state legislators have some remarkably crazy apportioning that assures wealthy homeowners keep most of the money in the wealthier school districts that, quite honestly, don't need it.  So it doesn't take a genius to see that this makes our public education system skewed in favor of districts with wealthy homeowners.  This is wrong, and people are finally beginning to recognize it.

Dr. Henry Scott, the Superintendent of Denison ISD said, "Some of the richer districts are able to keep a good portion of their money where in our district, we're funded at a very low level."

So, a lawsuit seems to be the only recourse for smaller school districts, even if it's a substantial risk for them since they have very little money to fund it.  But, the lawsuit does appear to be picking up more and more momentum, because school districts everywhere in Texas are recognizing the opportunity to right an obvious wrong.

This story deserves more media attention, before state legislators are able to find another excuse to keep their wealthy homeowners from sharing the wealth.

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