Educational Terms Glossary

Educational Terms Glossary

ASATR: Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction – or ASATR – was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2006 when they forced Texas school districts to lower their tax rates and provides school districts with funding to offset their lower tax rates. Districts that operated on the then-norm tax rate of $1.50 per $100 of taxable property were condensed down to a $1 tax rate by the state’s “compression percentage,” which is 66.67 percent. This is referred to as a compressed tax rate, or CTR. ASATR is a guarantee by the Texas Legislature that school districts would have the same per-student funding as they did prior to the tax rate reduction. ASATR is scheduled to be repealed on Sept. 1, 2017.

Chapter 41: In the Texas Education Code, Chapter 41 requires school districts that are deemed “property wealthy” to share their revenues with school districts that are deemed “property poor.” A “Chapter 41 School Districts,” therefore, is a school district that is considered property wealthy and must make recapture payments to the state, which then disperses these payments to districts considered property poor. This is considered the state’s “Robin Hood” law.

CTR: The Compressed Tax Rate – or CTR – is the lower tax rate school districts now operate on following the Texas Legislature’s requirement that school districts reduce their tax rates. The compression percentage passed was 66.67 percent – meaning school tax rates were reduced from their total percentage to 66.67 percent of that tax rate.

EOCs: End-of-course exams – or EOCs – are exams required to pass a certain course at the high school level. The state’s exam assessment system, STAAR, requires EOCs in Algebra I, biology, English I, English II and U.S. history. Typically, students who entered ninth grade in the 2011-12 academic year or later must pass these five tests to graduate, though some substitute assessments are possible.

Foundation School Program: The Foundation School Program – or FSP – is the primary source of state funding for Texas school districts. The FSP ensures all school districts receive “substantially equal access to similar revenue per student at similar tax effort.” FSP is a combination of state aid and local property tax revenue.

Golden Pennies: In Texas school finance terms, “golden pennies” are the first six cents of a tax rate a school district can exceed above its compressed tax rate. Most school districts can use the first four pennies at the discretion of their school boards; the next two pennies usually require voter approval through a tax ratification election.

Instructional Materials Allotment: The instructional materials allotment – or IMA – is used in the purchase of instructional materials, technological equipment and technology-related services. Each district or charter school that receives funds from the state is entitled to an IMA, which is determined biennially by the TEA commissioner.

Recapture: In Texas school finance terms, recapture refers to a payment made by a Chapter 41 school district that will be dispersed to districts deemed “property poor.” The state “recaptures” what it deems excess revenue from Chapter 41 school districts.

Robin Hood: In Texas school finance terms, “Robin Hood” is a reference to the state’s Chapter 41 law of the Texas Education Code. This law requires districts that are deemed “property wealthy” to share their revenue with districts deemed “property poor,” which is why the law is often referred to as “Robin Hood” (taking from the “rich” and giving to the “poor”).

STAAR: The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness – or STAAR – program is the state-mandated exam system in Texas, which was first implemented in the 2011-12 academic year. At the elementary and middle school level, STAAR exams currently take place in grades 3 to 8 (math and reading), 4 and 7 (writing), 5 and 8 (science in both; social studies in grade 8). At the high school level, STAAR exams take place in Algebra I, biology, English I, English II and U.S. History; these exams serve as EOCs.

TEA: The Texas Education Agency – or TEA – is the state-run educational oversight agency in Texas. The agency sets state standards, including school and district accountability as well as student exam requirements. The agency’s commissioner is Mike Morath, a former Dallas ISD trustee who began his current position in January 2016. Its website is tea.texas.gov.

Texas School Coalition: The Texas School Coalition is an organization of public school districts in Texas that advocates on behalf of its members. One of the primary goals of the organization regards ensuring adequate funding of Texas schools. The organization’s website is www.txsc.org.

TRE: A Tax Ratification Election – or TRE – is an election that is required to pass an increase in a tax rate. For Texas school districts, TREs are common when districts try to advance beyond their first four “golden pennies.” The TRE is passed if the majority of ballots are cast in favor of the proposal for increasing a tax rate.

TRS: The Teacher Retirement System of Texas – or TRS – is the retirement system for public educators in the state of Texas. TRS is one of the largest retirement systems in the nation. School districts and their employees pay into TRS to fund employee retirement benefits. TRS encompasses both economic and health care benefits.