NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – Rising property values in North Texas have led to higher property taxes. Critics say those higher revenues have allowed the state to spend less on funding its public schools.
The top budget writer in the Texas Senate, Republican Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, has formed a group of state Senators to study ways to change the school funding formula.
Any changes could have a major impact on the six million public school children here in the Lone Star State.
In an interview earlier this month, Nelson told CBS11, “The system is a mess, and it needs to be in my opinion, thrown out and we need to start over.”
Like many other state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, Nelson said she also opposes what’s called Robin Hood, in which wealthier school districts subsidize the poorer districts.
“It’s a terrible method of financing. We need to figure out a school finance method that provides the funds for every child in this state to get an adequate education,” said Sen. Nelson.
Democratic State Representative Eric Johnson of Dallas said something needs to change.
“We definitely need to be looking at putting more money into the system because I think as you’ve probably heard, Texas does not spend much money per student, relative to the other states. We’re ranked in the bottom five,” said Rep. Johnson.
Last week, Senator Nelson unveiled SB 1, the Senate’s proposed budget for 2018-19, which included more than $96 billion for public schools, a $4.6 billion increase from 2016-17.
While it included money for an additional 80,000 new students over the next two years, it did not change the state’s funding formula.
Nelson suggested the Senate’s study could take as long as two years before coming up with a new school funding formula.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said he’s been working on the school funding issue for ten years.
“I’ve been on special committees to look at this issue,” said Lt. Gov. Patrick. “There’s never been a consensus on how to address it between Republicans and Republicans, Republicans and Democrats, and Democrats and Democrats and local school officials.”
When asked about the Senate’s study of school financing, the Superintendent of Wylie ISD, Dr. David Vinson said, “I welcome it. We have to sit down and decide what is the best methodology. I think that’s when educators, legislators, and business people come together and decide what’s best for Texas.”
He said the state first needs to determine how much it costs to educate a child in Texas.
Vinson said the current funding formula is far from perfect. “I wouldn’t give it an A. I wouldn’t give it an F either. I think we’re looking at a C, with the idea of a B. But we’re Texas and Texans look for an A.”
Stacie Smith of Wylie has four children, three of them in the school district there.
For the past nine years, she says she has volunteered for the PTA. “It’s not just my four kids who are in school, but it’s everybody’s kids.”
She said she’s glad to hear state lawmakers are looking at changes to public school financing. “I think it’s great that we’re having this discussion,” said Smith.
Smith said she wants lawmakers to keep at least one thing in mind.
“How can we make it so that we, the average parents, can look at what the state is doing and where the finances are going and understand it?”
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