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Texas Has A Broken School Finance System – Can It Be Fixed?

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez
KUT News
A math class at New Tech Middle School in Manor, TX.

Although San Antonio leads the nation in economic inequality, many of the issues contributing to the opportunity gap between residents stem from the fundamentals: homes and education. 

Texas school districts rely heavily on local property taxes to fund facilities, staff salaries and supplies for students. This poses problems because property values and tax revenues vary by neighborhood. Therefore, the flow of funds for arbitrary, "independent" school districts throughout the state differ as well, creating inequity by geography. 

Legal challenges against this structure began locally as early as the 1960s by families in San Antonio's Edgewood community. 

When the case – dubbed San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez – reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, a 5-4 decision upheld the practice of using property taxes to fund public education.

School finance continues to be a topic that plagues policymakers every session of the Texas legislature.

Those involved in the debate have argued for years over small solutions for funding schools instead of reexamining the state's system as a whole. 

San Antonio native Matt Worthington explores the long-term implications of educational disparity in his research and reporting for the nonprofit journalism project Folo Media.

"We have tried fixing standards, teachers, school leaders, students, parents, tests, and everything in between," Worthington writes. "Two fixes we’ve never called for: Amending the constitution to protect the right to an education, and transforming school finance systems that courts since Rodriguez have continued to condemn."

How have schools in San Antonio and the rest of the state changed since the Supreme Court's decision in 1973? Should education be a right protected by the United States Constitution? 


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Jan Ross Piedad Sakian is TPR’s News Operations Producer. In this role, she develops strategy on collaborative and digital initiatives for the station. Since 2016, Jan Ross has served in a coordinating capacity for TPR’s state and national partners, including The Texas Newsroom.