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Government/Politics

House Committee To Hear Testimony On School Finance Legislation

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Ryan E. Poppe
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The head of public education for the Texas House has a plan for changing the state’s school finance system and boosting per pupil spend at most schools. On Tuesday, a legislative committee will debate the impact of the bill and how Texas currently funds schools.

The last time the Legislature adjusted the per pupil funding formula was in 1991, but since then, the number of families in the state has nearly doubled. That’s one of the reasons why, in 2014, a state judge ruled in favor of school districts that sued the state over the state’s school finance system.

House Public Education Committee Chairman, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, a Republican from Killeen, has introduced a bill that attempts to change how much the state is spending per student. It adds an additional $2.2 billion to the total formula and changes how much money comes back to high value property districts. But Aycock isn’t coy about the fact that not every district will see a large increase.

Under his bill, the Edgewood school district in San Antonio would receive less than half what other districts could be collecting from the state per student. “They are still somewhat low, but probably, unless they get some taxable wealth increase, they will probably always remain somewhat low. Those districts that have more taxable wealth pretty much always come out better than those districts that don’t have as much taxable wealth,” Aycock told Texas Public Radio.

Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer is one of the lawmakers at the State Capitol that represents the Edgewood School District. He said that while he was happy about the potential funding increase, the plan didn’t spend as much on children from socio-economically disadvantaged school districts.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer

“As our school system becomes more and more economically disadvantaged, those students are more expensive to teach. And so when you just increase the basic allotment per pupil, you’re not addressing those specific areas,” Martinez Fischer pointed out. He added that school districts like Edgewood have an additional cost related to special needs classes and English language-learner programs.

In response, Aycock admitted there was some validity to that argument, but asked, “Where does the state find a balancing point between rich and poor school districts?” We don’t have an answer to that as yet, but it’s got to start somewhere.

Here’s a look at how the spends will pan out over the next two years.

  1. The San Antonio Independent School District could see a 3.6 percent revenue increase over two years, raising per pupil spend from $6,438 to $6,938.
  2. Northside ISD could see 5.1 percent revenue increase over two years, raising per student spend from $5,790 to $5,998.
  3. Edgewood ISD would see 2.7 percent revenue increase over two years, bringing per pupil spending from $6,242 to $6,411.
  4. Northeast ISD could see 4.9 percent revenue increase over two years, which increases per student funding from $5,856 to $6,144.
  5. Harandale ISD could experience a 4.4 percent revenue increase over two years, increasing current per student spending from $6,202 to 6,475.