Date: January 26, 2017
Topic: Texas Property Values to Finance Education
Public school finance comes from multiple areas: local tax dollars, state funding, as well as additional funds from the federal government. This legislative season, Texas lawmakers were planned to find state funds for public schools. However, the burden has been further shifted towards local taxes. Over the past year, property values in Texas have risen, giving the state government justification for allowing higher property taxes to fill funding gaps throughout the state.
While it makes sense that the state should use its funding for multiple necessities throughout the state, it does not make sense for the burden of school finance to be passed to municipalities, without authority over school districts also being delegated. Lawmakers in Austin commonly pass unfunded mandates, instructing independent school districts to meet certain regulations. However, in these mandates, no funding is given to execute these orders. Through my research in education finance and local control, I have come to believe that if over half of school funding comes from local property taxes, then it is only reasonable for independent school districts to have more authority over their actions.
From my research, I have concluded that despite the state legislature’s inability to find the necessary 3.2 billion dollars for public schools in Texas, Austin is acting as if they have complete control over education policy throughout the state. As I further pursued research regarding public education finance, I struggled with this reality. While I do believe that school districts should have accountability and consistency throughout the state, I also believe that the level of government funding the majority of a school system should have the majority of authority regarding the given school system.
As I tried to find a balance between consistency and local authority, I realized the importance of “Robin Hood” legislation. Going into 2017, roughly 51% of public school finance will come from local property taxes. Given that Texas encompasses a vast amount of suburban, urban, and rural school districts who all have individual issues, it is clear to me that the state should have power to enforce consistency throughout the state. However, I also believe that if local tax money funds more than half of any given school district, then local representatives and elections should have the largest say in how the school district is run. Researching the current proposed makeup of public school finance in Texas has led me to believe that current legislation and policy efforts are far from ideal. Initially, I began to conclude that local school boards and municipalities should have the largest say in education policies because of their large financial contribution. However, I quickly realized this was an easy answer that did not cover the full problem caused by education finance. If independent school districts were granted autonomy, I believe that inequality and segregation between different districts would skyrocket.
I realized that I value accountability and consistency between school districts to ensure educational equality more than I value local autonomy. With my personal position cleared by my research, I pursued how my values related to policy options. The research I recently conducted further revealed to me that I believe that state legislatures should provide a large fraction of funding for public schools. This would not only ensure that students statewide receive equal educational opportunities, but it would also further justify the state’s authority to govern public school systems.
Ramsey, Ross. “Analysis: Texas Budget Writers Treasure That School Tax You Hate.” The
Texas Tribune. N.p., 13 Jan. 2017. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.