GISD School Board President Anthony Brown's Published Article: Frustrated with Texas school finance? This is how revolutions start. [Opinion]
Photo Credited to: JERRY LARA, Staff / San Antonio Express-News
Article Credited to: The Houston Chronicle
Frustrated with Texas school finance? This is how revolutions start. [Opinion]
By Anthony Brown
School finance reform is critical this year, particularly for children enrolled in public school districts in Houston, Galveston and other communities that are forced to pay huge amounts of local tax dollars to the state government under the so-called Robin Hood school finance system.
Currently, the Houston Independent School District expects to pay a whopping $312 million to the state in the 2019-2020 school year under Robin Hood. More than 30 cents of each dollar Galvestonians pay in local school property taxes is siphoned off to the state the same way. Our communities cannot keep enough of our local tax dollars to educate our children, and we have no way to make up that loss.
This is how revolutions start. There is no road left on which to further kick the can.
Taxpayers and educators are frustrated because we know how we got here: The state has been decreasing its share of the cost of education. Between 2008 and 2018, the state’s share of the cost of public education has fallen more than 20 percent. As the state has backed away from its obligation, you, I and other local taxpayers have had to make up the difference by paying more in local property taxes.
When the system relies more heavily on property taxes, our Robin Hood payments increase. We understand that all Texas children need a great education. Unfortunately, the current system robs Peter locally, to try to educate Paul elsewhere. This cannot continue, especially when so many of our local children face severe needs and challenges that we must meet.
You might think that higher tax revenues from rising property values in our communities would solve the problem. That’s not the case because most of those dollars go to the state. As a result, we pay higher local taxes every year but with no added benefit to our children.
We can’t lower our tax rate either to provide relief or the state will punish our children even more by further reducing their education funding.
Going forward, school finance reform must resolve some difficult questions:
How much money is required to engage and educate all students?
What share of that total will be borne by local taxpayers?
Where will the state’s share come from, and what strings will be attached?
As the Legislature goes about answering those questions, it’s important that the final product include enough money to engage and educate all Texas children, and that it provides local financial flexibility to solve unique local problems.
Our mission is to arm and empower all Texas children to reach their full potential. As adults, they should be “pullers,” and not “riders,” adding their collective horsepower to the Texas economic engine that continues to power our nation and our world.
Fortunately, we now have reason for cautious optimism. Our voters spoke and made education funding their top priority. They demand results that will improve student academic outcomes and reduce the burden on our local taxpayers.
Our state leaders and lawmakers have been listening. They repeatedly speak to the importance of school finance reform. Recent legislative proposals put significant new dollars into public education — another good sign.
That said, we must all be vigilant. As President Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Our children need more than short-term gimmicks that are designed to just get legislators through the next election cycle. We simply won’t tolerate a system that is engineered to fail. Failure cannot be an option when our children and their futures are at stake. Our vigilance, in turn, will help keep our lawmakers focused and on track. That’s why it’s important that all of us — parents, taxpayers and educators — watch the Legislature closely and continue to push for meaningful investments and reforms that the state will sustain well into the future.
We are not just residents of a local community. We are Texans. We believe in our children and in the future. If we all stay involved, pay attention to details and demand real solutions, we will succeed — and so will our children.
Brown is an attorney and serves as the president of the Galveston Independent School District Board of Trustees.
To read this article from The Houston Chronicle, click HERE.