It’s been another tough year for Texas public schools and certainly for those in Galveston County.
As the year started, lawmakers gathered in Austin for the legislative session with another round of pleas from local education officials to revamp the state’s method of funding education.
Galveston and Texas City school districts are both considered property-rich districts despite having large percentages of economically disadvantaged students.
The so-called Robin Hood system requires school districts with a high taxable property value to send a portion of their local tax revenue — known as recapture payments — to the state to be redistributed to districts with lower property values.
For years, school officials have urged the legislature to reform the system. Even the Republican-dominated state supreme court ruled that while the funding system is constitutional, it’s seriously flawed.
Not only did lawmakers do little with school reform, Texas City had to lobby to receive funds it needed to help with the cost of absorbing La Marque schools into the Texas City district at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
In the end, Texas City did receive some extra funding during the regular session from a bill that would send $17 million to the district over the next five years.
Then in September, Hurricane Harvey struck.
The storm displaced families, who have sought temporary residence in hotels, shelters and housing in the county and elsewhere, disrupting the start of school and shaking up enrollment.
Student population is particularly critical to school districts because it’s one of the primary ways the Texas Education Agency determines their funding.
The possibility of losing more funding comes at a time when school boards across Galveston County are forced to adopt deficit budgets as they struggle with myriad issues. Those include the system that funnels local tax money to districts with small tax bases, less state funding and the loss of other funding avenues.
Because property values — another critical factor determining district funding — are already calculated for the current year, districts would experience a loss of funding a year in the future.
Lawmakers have a year until the next legislative session. It’s time for them to take the initiative to come up with a meaningful school finance system. Galveston County school officials shouldn’t have to make the too often trips to Austin to ask the legislature for financial help.
• Dave Mathews