Day: <span>August 31, 2016</span>

Passing the buck on school funding


Believe it or not, folks, with Texas already woefully behind in per-student funding and enrollment growing by about 80,000 kids each school year, Education Commissioner Mike Morath is asking the Legislature for a REDUCTION of $2.1 billion in basic state funding for public schools.

Yes, the education commissioner has asked legislators, when they convene next year, to budget $2.1 billion less for the Foundation School Program for 2018-19 then they did for 2016-17.

The Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) that Morath filed on behalf of the Texas Education Agency is the product of complicated calculations that are based on rising property values. That means public schools, at least theoretically, won’t lose $2.1 billion. It means that the state will pay that much less and local property taxpayers will pay that much more because the values of their homes and business properties are increasing.

And the so-called property rich school districts – although many of them aren’t all that wealthy – will transfer more of their local tax dollars to poorer districts.

In other words, according to my interpretation of an analysis prepared by the school finance experts at Moak, Casey & Associates, Morath has showed the legislative majority how it can continue passing the buck to local property taxpayers for an inadequate and unfair school funding system.

Texas pays about $2,700 less per student than the national average each year for public education, and the Texas Supreme Court recently wrung its hands over how unfair, unjust and awful Texas’ school funding system is. But the same Supreme Court also let the legislative majority off the hook for improvements by declaring that same unfair, unjust and awful school finance system was constitutional.

In his appropriations request, Morath also recommended that the Legislature wipe out funding for a special mentoring program for young teachers. Instead of encouraging the professional development of young educators, Morath would rather under-fund their classrooms, over-test their students and then tie their evaluations to test scores.

Remember, T-TESS is the plan Morath approved to base at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores.

Educators and their students deserve better than this.