Thursday, October 27, 2016

Who Is To Blame?

Ross Ramsey from the Texas Tribune has written two very good articles in the past week that discuss the impact of state actions on local school boards, districts and they communities they serve.  If you have not seen these articles, Rising local school property taxes ease state budget woes, and High property taxes start in Austin, not in school districts, please take the time to read them.  The content can be found by clicking on each of the story titles above.

While his summary hits the nail on the head, it appears that neither story is newsworthy enough to draw attention from other than those who read the Tribune, or at least they do not appear to have “landed” in the Dallas Morning News or Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.  So, as with advocacy in general, it is up to us to make certain that our community members and those representing us in Austin understand ”the rest of the story”.

The following are a couple of observations by Mr. Ramsey in the first article above
  • Recapture dollars in the 2018-2019 budget will increase by $1.44B (yes, with a B)
  • Total recapture dollars are projected at $5.13B during the next budget cycle
So what do these numbers mean?  As Ramsey notes, the recapture dollars must be spent on education.  But this does allow the state to reduce education spending and to allocate other general fund dollars to other causes.  In short, he said, “Local taxpayers, in this case, are saving state taxpayers some money.”  He continued, “Intentionally or not, it’s a great political deal for state lawmakers. They can squawk at local school districts for high property tax rates at the same time they’re using some of that money to lower the state’s expenses for public education. The state budget is easier to balance because of the local tax money marbled into school spending.”

And in a related story (the second article above) …
  • State aid for public education increased from $18.24B in 2008 to $19.59 for the current fiscal year, an increase of 7.4%.
  • Ten years ago, the state paid 44.8% of education costs; that figure is now down to 38.4% while the local’s share increased from 44.8% to 51.5%.
  • This translates to the state paying $339 less per student than it did 10 years ago, meaning that locals are paying almost $1000 more per student than in 2008.
Details on this breakdown can be found by clicking here.  Once again, the state is balancing the budget on the backs of the schoolchildren it is constitutionally required to educate.  But it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and sometimes difficult to hold the legislature accountable for the decisions they make.

Mr. Ramsey’s analysis should at least provide all of us with the data to meet with our representatives and to demand that the state fulfill its obligations.  By doing so, we will continue to make education a priority for the more than 5.3M Texas public education students.  The time to act and advocate is now!

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