‘Appetite for change’ as school funding tax burden rises in Texas

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, the Texas Education Agency released plans to ask lawmakers for less money for Texas public schools. The reason? TEA budget documents project that increases in local property taxes will bring more money to school districts, and allow the state to pay less.

The rising burden on local taxpayers is bringing new attention to proposals to change the system for funding public schools. 

“The current system is largely inequitable as it pertains to both taxpayers and school children funding,” said the Equity Center’s deputy executive director, Josh Sanderson. The Equity Center is a nonprofit that represents over 650 school districts in Texas, working with low and mid-wealth districts, to help better utilize state funding for public education purposes. 

Sanderson says that because the state has been using the same system for a long time, they’re seeing disparities between districts, but now they’re also seeing more policy changes that haven’t happened in the past.

“We’re over-reliant on things that we’ve done in the past, 20 and 30 years ago, that we still utilize today simply because it’s the easiest way to do it, not necessarily because it’s the right way to do it.” 

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance has a deadline of Dec. 31, 2018 to deliver a report to the governor and Texas legislature that recommends changes to improve the public school finance system. 

“If no action is taken, it’s the legislature saying that the current system that we have today is acceptable,” Sanderson said. But he doesn’t think that either lawmakers or voters believe that’s the case. 

“There is an appetite for change, an appetite for reform, in the way that we fund our public schools,” Sanderson said.

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