Similar District Gets More Money From The State Than Fort Worth ISD

By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Despite having similar enrollment and economic demographics, the Austin Independent School District receives about $1,000 more per child from the state than Fort Worth ISD.

“Why do you have this inequity between two districts that are so similar?” asked Larry Shaw, head of the Fort Worth United Educators Association.

Both districts have about 80,000 students. They are each predominantly Hispanic districts, and both have more than 60 percent of their students listed as economically disadvantaged. Austin ISD, however, receives $5,700 per student from the state while Fort Worth ISD gets about $4,700.

“From the get-go, Austin, which is basically the same school district as Fort Worth is, gets a thousand dollars more per child,” Shaw said about the annual expenditures per student allowed under state economic formulas.

Every year, the state gives districts money called ‘targeted revenues.’ If Fort Worth got the same amount as Austin, it would make up roughly $80 million in its budget. This, coincidentally, is what educators expect the district will have to slice to overcome a shortfall.

“The legislative committee sat down and made deals and that’s what it came to be,” Shaw said.

How much money a district receives is based on a complex formula of cost of living, district wealth, tax rates, the types of students, class attendance and many other factors.

Rep. Mark Strama (D – Austin) has pored over education reform since he was a legislative aide in the 1990s. He now sits on the education committee creating policies. He said political dealing is to blame for the difference in what the two districts receive.

“The school funding formulas are an accumulated assortment of inequitable deals that have been cut over the years, some of which penalize districts like Fort Worth,” Strama said.

But many of the lawmakers who complain about how unfair and convoluted spending formulas are say now may not be the time to tackle this issue. They say the bigger problem is found in the myriad memos and documents drawn out to battle the state’s $9.3 billion shortfall in funding for public education.

However, Fort Worth ISD does have the option to file a lawsuit that shows disparities in the hopes of changing the apportioned amount.

The law also allows Fort Worth an opportunity to ask taxpayers for a large tax hike first – a move officials say the city would almost certainly have to make before taking it to court – which would likely create an unpopular reaction and a political mine field for any elected school officials.

“We’ve never done that,” Shaw said. “If we go to court right now, the court would say, ‘Why didn’t you go for a tax ratification election? You didn’t even give it a chance.’”

Strama said the same rules hurt his Austin district when the cost of living soared there. He said the rules need changing – some day.

“Maybe, when we come out of this, when we do what’s right on the revenue side of the equation, we start allocating the money when it’s the right amount of money, we can put the money where it’s most needed and fairly,” Strama said.

Until then, Fort Worth ISD feels the impact of those rules every day it struggles to balance the budget.

“$80 million? I can’t begin to tell you what we could do with $80 million,” Shaw said.

When asked if it would balance the budget for the next two years, he countered with “Probably the next four years.”


One Comment

  1. Frank says:

    Just think of the increased amount per child, you would have if you weren’t paying to educate illegal children at your child’s expense.

    1. L J says:

      So tired of hearing how everything is the illegals fault. Reminds me of my own grandparents racist comments about how blacks and mexicans were the cause of so many problems in our town. Back in the 70’s, there were only 2 black families and a few hispanic families in our small Texas town but still they were blamed by some with outdated southern racist views for all the problems.

      Frank, its time for people like yourself to wake up and join the 21st century. The lack of funding for schools is not because of illegals in the schools. It is because of very poor leadership in Austin. Much of our money is wasted on backroom political deals as this article points out. By the way, the lions share of money for schools in Texas comes from property taxes. All property owners in Texas must pay those taxes so even illegals who are renting are contributing to the payment of those taxes. Not to mention the sales tax which we all pay and the revenue from lottery sales (illegals buy those tickets too).

  2. bobleeswagger308 says:

    LJ: The lack of money per student is a DIRECT result of legal resident and citizens paying taxes for legal residents and citizens but having it stretched to cover illegals. That is a fact recognized by everyone. It is also a fact that in most border towns kids cross from Mexico to attend nearby US schools. I don’t want pay for anythijng for anyone not here legally. However if you want to adopt an illegal family and pay for their education, food, medical, and incidentals–keep them off my of welfare, or in other words off of my tax dollars–then go ahead. If that makes me a bigot or racist in your eyes, too bad you don’t understand the meanings of the words. If I refuse to share my wife with an illegal, does that make me a bigot, or a racist??

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