In 1949, Texans established a public school finance system that included funding from local tax bases. This revenue was to be used for local enrichment. More than 60 years ago, local control was recognized as the key for local districts to flourish. Since the Texas Legislature reduced property taxes by one-third in 2006 (from $1.50 to $1.00) there has been a school finance revenue deficit each year. The legislature adds new funding formulas, increasing the number of Revenue-Contributing School Districts (Chapter 41), which while increasing revenue in the short-term, spreads the loss of local control to more and more districts. Districts must have meaningful discretion to make decisions that reflect the values of their local community. Local discretion is lost, however, when Revenue-Contributing School payments to the state reach 50 percent or more.
In Northwest ISD, administration and staff continue to work diligently to protect the quality of teaching and the exceptional educators working in our classrooms. In the 2010-2011 school year, school district officials developed a set of Guiding Principles to assist administration and staff in determining budget reductions.The district’s $8.2 million in budget cuts for the 2011-12 school year focused on operational costs, preserving the quality of education for your children. Also, the district will send $17 million in recapture money to the state to be redistributed to property-poor school districts. In 2012-13, Northwest will need to cut $12.8 million from the budget . In addition to the loss of state funding that results in local budget cuts, districts are expected to implement and meet the rigor of the state’s new accountability system, STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) and EOC (end-of-course) exams.
The finance system for Texas public education is at a critical juncture, particularly for Chapter 41, or Revenue-Contributing School Districts. The fact lawsuits are being filed against the state of Texas by districts of widely varying property wealth reinforces the consensus that today's finance system is badly broken. After the courts issue a final ruling in the case, it will be up to the Texas Legislature (most likely in 2013) to revise the school finance system.
It is important to learn more about this complicated issue, monitor the latest developments, the status of the lawsuits, and share this information with others in the community. This website will provide tools and resources to become more informed and engaged.