As Dallas ISD advocates begin ramping up the campaign to pass a 13-cent Tax Ratification Election (or TRE) in November, news that will likely irritate more property owners came down the pike during a state budget hearing: The state will contribute less toward public education in the next two years.
In yesterday’s budget panel meeting, Texas Education Agency commissioner Mike Morath confirmed that his agency’s budget request for the Foundation School Program for the next two years asks for $3.5 billion less in general revenue for schools, and will instead shift more of the burden to local property taxes.
Morath told the panel that the TEA’s preliminary budget request would drop the state share from its current approximately 38-42 percent contribution to somewhere in the mid-30 percent range, because local property values will go up by an estimated 6.77 percent a year.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities estimates that by 2021 , the state’s contribution to the Foundation School Program, which is the main way the state distributes funds to schools, will be around 32 percent. State statutes require the state to factor in local property value revenue before factoring in state funding.
Under the current law, basic allotment per student stays at $5,140 (the rate it has been since 2016), but is not adjusted for enrollment or inflation. That formula can only be changed by the state legislature.
Advocates immediately began speaking out, including one parent who attended the budget meeting.
“Property taxpayers are fed up!” That the state is not properly funding public schools, says mom of student to budget staff. Her district will send $101 million in recapture to the state, 66% of the taxes collected! #txlege #txed pic.twitter.com/IwMkqIEBBn
— Texas AFT (@TexasAFT) September 12, 2018
Needless to say, trustees are not happy.
“This is wrong,” said Dallas ISD trustee Dustin Marshall. “The State should not be balancing its budget off the backs of taxpayers in Robin Hood districts.”
“This is being done to the detriment of our children and our future as a state,” he added.
Trustee Dan Micciche said that as the state continues to reduce its share of public education funding, more and more districts are faced with asking taxpayers for property tax increases.
“The state legislature continues to neglect the needs of public school children by continuing to reduce its share of state funding,” Micciche said. “The only recourse for local school districts such as Dallas ISD is the path that all of the school districts in Collin County and hundreds of other districts across the state have taken: a tax ratification election.”
Since 2008, nearly half of Texas school districts have passed a TRE. Locally, of the 28 or so school districts in Dallas and Collin County, two-thirds have passed a TRE.
“Dallas ISD has a tax ratification election on the Nov. 6 ballot that will allow voters to increase local funding to sustain the successful programs and progress that Dallas ISD has achieved over the past five years,” he continued. “Dallas ISD has the highest student poverty level in the state and is the most improved school district in the state.”
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking more at the proposed TRE, the current state of Dallas ISD, and what public education funding has looked like historically for Texas.
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at email@example.com.