Texas school districts come together against Senate education reform bill

A coalition of school districts across Texas have come together to tell state lawmakers they don't like the Senate version of a bill to fund education in Texas.

It’s all happening as state senators are planning a final vote Friday on its version of education funding.

The problem is a change in the formula in the Senate's version of an education funding bill that school districts and others say hurts and not helps.

Paying for public education is a painful and confusing process for school districts and taxpayers.

State senators now propose calculating how much districts receive in state funding and for those who send money back to the state under Robin Hood with current year property values rather than the prior year, which has been the standard.

“It’s very complicated because we don’t even get the official values until July. We start school and our fiscal year on July 1,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. “We get the current year values that are verified by the appraisal district after that. And so then we may have to go and reduce our budget after we've adopted it.”

Hinojosa isn’t the only one describing this as a budget guessing game. Nearly 60 school districts, the Texas Association of School Administrators and other groups are sending a letter to the House and Senate education committee members.

The letter says the Senate version of school funding using "current year property values would be devastating to our school districts" and creates an "additional Robin Hood system that affects even more districts" and "in most cases would cause significantly more harm than the current funding system."

“The big problem is going to current year values that would hurt every district in the state. It would cost us close to $100 million,” Hinojosa said.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says the Senate’s education funding bill neither lowers property taxes nor helps school districts.

“So now they're going to try to pay for what they call property tax relief which won’t lower your property taxes with this shift to put more burden on the schools, which actually will accelerate your property taxes,” he said.

SMU Economics Professor Mike Davis says there needs to be other revenue streams to fund public education.

“Politically untenable, but there’s got to be a revenue source that is more equally distributed between all of the districts and ultimately that is going to be,” he said. “And this is really unpopular: less dependence on property taxes and more dependence on some other source of taxes.”

An effort in the Senate to raise the sales tax to help lower property taxes and fund education did not make it

Davis says the conversation about other revenue streams should maybe include a state income tax, which no one in Austin wants to bring that to the table.