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.