Statewide, public schools account for nearly 55 percent of your property taxes. This is more than the combined taxes paid to all the other property taxing units.

The state uses formulas to assign a dollar amount to each student. More money is allotted to English learners and economically poor students who are more costly to educate. The average per student in 2020 was $12,227.

Both the state and local property owners pay for school funding. About 12 years ago, the state/local share was about 50/50; today the local share is 64 percent.

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

Maintenance & Operations represents the costs to run a school district. The state requires school districts to tax at least $1 per $100 valuation and can’t go over $1.17. This narrow window limits school boards from lowering tax rates when appraisals increase.

School districts take their share of funding from the property values in the school taxing district and the state makes up the difference.

Appraisal increases add value in the taxing district. This allows the state to use the increased property values to reduce the state share of school funding, thus shifting their responsibility onto the backs of local taxpayers. This savings frees up state money that can be used for programs other than education.

Going back to the 50/50 share of funding would allow school districts to keep more of their local tax values. But the state depends heavily on property tax values and this would require a $7 billion dollar increase in the state share, leaving a hole in the state budget.

To see how we got here, you have to go back to 1982 when the U.S. Supreme Court (Plyler vs. Doe) ruled that public schools in the United States must enroll all students regardless of legal status.

The ruling together with light border security had the unintended consequence of children being used as a ticket for migrants to get into the United States.

This led to hundreds of property poor school districts that must receive equal education. This takes money away from other school districts, drives up taxes, lowers standards and creates a constant school funding crisis.

For the past 28 years, over 600 school districts have filed funding-related lawsuits. Recapture (Robin Hood) was created where 401 school districts are sending nearly $3 billion dollars this year to help fund other poor school districts.

Texas has more students in public schools than 28 states have total population. Sixty-four percent of the state student population are classified as economically poor.

As schools across the state fail, working families enroll their children in better schools or transfer to private schools. Parents who pay high taxes, plus more money to private schools, are the reason for “the money to go with the student,” movement.

The courts and state leaders need to ask themselves, “Do these foreign children impose a financial burden that lowers the statewide quality of education?”

Property owners who feel the pain of tax increases and parents who uproot their lives and leave for better schools know that the system needs fixing.

Jack Cross served five years on the Galveston Central Appraisal District’s appraisal review board. He lives in Texas City.

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(6) comments

Charles Douglas

Great information Mr. Cross, and much for us to think about! Under these conditions we find ourselves in, it would seem that we would do a better job of guarding and policing our borders from illegals bum-rushing and flooding across unimpeded than we see happening now! Immigration is fine, a fine thing, but it needs to be systematically controlled with laws being observed on the implementation of it!

To much of anything can cause problems, and we KNOW this! From my point of view our educational system has other failures which needs addressing, in that there seems to be no urgency to improve poor performing schools in many parts of the country! The Oval Office, or Administration can throw all kinds of fundings toward education, but if those fundings do not descend down to where they will benefit the students, and not the Unions and Organizations representing those who are on staff operating the schools, ...then we will never get to where we need to be.

We have students in some parts of this country who are NOT in physical schools even now! Why? We now see all kinds of funding coming forth by way of Socialist Style Givaways in Federal Budgets,....but yet many students in America are still attending schools virtually & Forgotten! Why? The science everybody is head- over- heels about says it is okay for students to be back in schools! So Why are they not there?

Private schools are in session. We seem to be descending into a nation with an unquenchable appetite for political BS, habitually kissing up to crazy, woke, race-baiting fanatics who seek to divide this nation by race in continuous efforts to gain and retain power, and riches! It is said that the BLM founder is filthy rich now, and have million dollar homes all over the place! How can that be? Where is all this money coming from! Many problems which will plague our society in the future will stem from poorly, uneducated young people!

Poverty, crime, assaults, thefts, and prisons being built, are just a few of what occurs, from not educating our young properly! You can give a young fast food worker $15 an hour all you want, but unless that worker get some education, training, or blue collar skills, his/her outlook or future will be bleak! This will hold true especially for young minorities who are already playing catch-up!

Jack Cross

When politicians run on lowering property taxes they should be asked how. Your appraisal does not set the tax rate. Taxing units including schools set the tax rate based on how much money they need to fund their operation. After they take their needs from the property values in the taxing district there is a big pile of values left generated by the appraisal increased and all the new construction. The state needs and takes this property values.. Property poor districts are growing and educating the poor of the world is expensive. Education is too important to the future of the nation, it should not be part of the political arena.. . Worse yet, taxes will continue to increase as long as the student population of poverty level grows.

Gary Scoggin

Jack, thanks again for another informative article.

With regard to educating undocumented children I'd like to offer a few thoughts.

1. First off, I agree that we need better border security. This needs to be coupled with programs that allow immigration at a manageable rate. We can disagree on what that manageable rate is - a topic for another day.

2. We all need to realize that almost everyone, regardless of immigration status, pays school taxes. People live somewhere and the owner of that "somewhere" is paying property taxes. And everyone pays sales taxes which go to the city and state. The SCOTUS has said that all children, regardless of status, must have access to public education, so it's not like we can kick them out.

3. So the problem with teaching kids that don't speak English is that they are more expensive to teach than those that do. They (or their parents or landlord) are paying taxes so it's not like they are getting a completelty free ride; but they are more costly to educate.

4. All of this is ancillary to the main point of the article, which is an excellent one. The legislture has put the taxing entities, especially school districts, in a box. The Appraisal District must make apppraisals based on real market values. And the school districts have a narrow window within which they must set their tax rates.

Jack Cross

Gary, I don't know how you define a free ride, but the state is depending heavily on local property taxes, there is no question about that. This is because court rulings forced state leaders to devise this convoluted property tax scheme to fund all the property poor school districts. As long as taxpayers stay in the dark, state officials can run on lowering property taxes by shifting the blame to the CAD who they govern and local commissioners and boards. Taxpayers can keep blaming the appraisal district and local taxing bodies and property taxes keep increasing.

Curtiss Brown

"School districts take their share of funding from the property values in the school taxing district and the state makes up the difference," is what you said, Jack. But you didn't say what you just said here. Article 7 of the Texas Constitution says, "A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." It shall be the duty of the Legislature of the state to provide, not the local property taxpayers. That should be said. The people are not complaining about taxes to pay firefighters or police officers or courts. They should complain about the state legislature failing to properly stand up and do their duty.

Jack Cross

Curtiss, You are exactly right and the courts have said the same thing,

Here us what the Texas Supreme court said in response to a lawsuit by 600 Texas School Districts. The Governor and top leadership celebrated and called this a victory.:

The State’s control of this local revenue is a significant factor in considering whether local taxes have become a state property tax.… [We caution] that a cap to which districts are inexorably forced by educational requirements and economic necessities… will in short order violate the prohibition of a state property tax. In a 2014 lawsuit district Judge Dietz ruled that the Texas system amounts to such a tax.

In 2016 the Texas Supreme Court overturned Judge John Dietz’s decision declaring that the state funding scheme forces local districts to impose high property taxes in a way that violates the Texas Constitution.

The court said that, “Despite the imperfections of the current school funding regime, it meets minimum constitutional requirements,” Justice Don Willett wrote for the court.

The all-Republican court stipulated that the state’s school-funding system is profoundly flawed. It described the system as “a recondite scheme for which the word ‘Byzantine’ seems generous.”

But, the court said, it’s the job of the Legislature — not the courts — to fix it.

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