As we approach the new Texas legislative session, RISD Trustees are working to create interest and understanding about education issues.
Many of you are aware that school finance is a hot topic. Districts with less than $305,000 of assessed property value per student are called property-poor, or Chapter 42 districts. Richardson ISD has $464,640 of assessed property value per enrolled student and is therefore a property-wealthy, or Chapter 41 district.
Through the current school finance plan, Chapter 41 districts send funds to Austin, which are then distributed to Chapter 42 districts. This plan is sometimes referred to as “Robin Hood.” The objective is to equalize the amount of money available to every school child in the state, regardless of the local property values of their community.
We support this concept. Just because a child lives in a property-poor community, his educational opportunity should not be penalized. This distribution system is working fairly well, although there are a few miscalculations that need to be fixed. The problem is not so much the way the pie is being cut. It is the size of the pie.
There are simply not enough dollars in the whole Texas system to adequately educate a child. Therefore, we believe the major issue facing the legislature is not equity: It is adequacy.
State Sen. Florence Shapiro is proposing the appointment of a bipartisan commission to determine the cost of an adequate education in Texas. A study could be completed in six months, because several proven ways to determine the cost of an adequate education already exist. An adequacy study in Maryland led to a new financing method in that state. Let’s do the same in Texas.
The national average cost for educating a student is $7,250 per year per student. Texas is spending about $4,575 per student, ranking us among the lowest in the nation.
Since about 20 percent of school districts are currently at the tax cap of $1.50 per $100 of assessed value, the state of Texas needs to put more dollars into the system and revise the formula for determining how much a Chapter 41 district may retain.
Districts across the state are either cutting programs or increasing student/teacher ratios by putting more students in each classroom. That’s what spending only $4,575 per child means.
We hope you will talk or write to your legislators in support of more adequate funding for public education. If citizens like you do not demand change, legislators will not act. School finance is a knotty problem, but the over-arching issue is adequacy.