State Legislature must search for school funding solutions


Juleanna Culilap

With roughly three months left in the Texas Legislature’s biennial session, calls for school funding reform can be heard through Austin. After legislators failed to pass any reform in 2017, now is the time for action.

Wingspan Staff

School funding is one of the top issues facing state lawmakers in the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature. The state spent 6 percent less in 2017 on schools than it had a decade earlier, while Texas’ student population has rapidly increased and disparities in performance among districts grow.

Governor Greg Abbott and nearly all legislators have agreed that it’s time to increase funding, but there is no consensus as to where these funds will come from. With a call for a funding increase, legislators have mulled an outcomes-based funding system, which is a disastrous idea. This method involves allocating money to schools based on standards and results on standardized results.

Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick might implement such a system as they want to stop “throwing” money at schools without improvement. The second largest state with a growing population and thriving economy, Texas is also a national leader in educational inequality. Texas ranks 46th in fourth grade reading proficiency. Rewarding high-achieving schools with more funds only makes it harder for low-performing schools to grow and get the resources they need when they get less funding.

Property taxes have been the main source of school funds for a long time decades, but it’s been a destructive cycle. In the Robin Hood system, the state allocates tax revenue from property-rich districts to smaller districts in need of funds. This method has led property-rich districts needing to increase local property taxes in order to accomodate for growth as seen in Frisco ISD’s Tax Ratification Election.

Abbott has proposed a 2.5 percent cap on local property tax revenue growth claiming, “Texans are fed up with property taxes being raised with impunity”. However, legislators cannot simply turn away entirely from property taxes, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen must look into other ways to get money.

The state government cannot continue to spend years searching for solutions. The Legislature is limited enough as it meets just once every two years, but letting problems fester until the next session is inexcusable. Politicians dropped the ball on this as they failed to agree on reforms by the end of the 2017 session. As school spending decreases and performance declines, inaction is no longer an option. The quality of our youth’s education is further at risk if legislators leave Austin without a deal.

After letting the problem grow for too long, the time has come for legislators to finally step up. Now is the time, for listening, discussions, productive dialogue and a search for solutions, not a time to get caught up in distracting issues like bathroom bills. Legislators have until May 27 to make the right choice and keep the educational quality of all Texas students in mind.