School Finance

Debbie Jones, left, chief financial officer for Galveston Independent School District, goes over accounting codes with Central Middle School Principal Monique Lewis on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, as they review parts of Lewis’ budget for the upcoming school year.

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

Dave Mathews: 409-683-5258;

(5) comments

Jose' Boix

What does the future hold for Galveston County schools? is the headline question in today's Editorial. Grim is my short and simple answer. Just consider how effective our Legislators have been in dealing and resolving the same issue. We just completed the 85th Session, and the 86th regular legislative session begins on January 8, 2019. So while most if not all the 8 Galveston County ISDs are struggling financially as we speak, the future outlook is to wait till January 2019 and hope for the best. Not a nice outlook in my opinion. The question then becomes, what can we all do to make a difference?

Gary Miller

Universal school choice would solve these problems. No money would be funneled to Democrats or unions. A higher quality education for less money?

Jim Forsythe

Gary , please expand on how this would work. Who would pay ?
Can the schools refuse to admit a child? Would  the Universal school be required to provide services such as speech, to the children that need it. If a child had special needs , would they provide? Would they have sports, music program and such?

Gary Miller

Jim! The same funding now available for charter schools would be all needed. Local school taxes would not be needed. Choice would provide the right schools for all students. Choice would let parents chose schools that specialized in what their children needed. Sport programs would be on a city wide basis with sport clubs for boys and girls. If parents wanted music there would be schools that offered it. CHOICE would mean we would have what we want instead of what the education bureaucracy wanted. Not funding a union or political party would make Choice cost less.

Jose' Boix

Charter schools receive state funds based on the average daily attendance of students (same as traditional public schools). However, they do not receive funds from local tax revenue and the majority, including Texas charters, do not receive state facilities funding.

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