Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, who revealed today he’s not seeking re-election in 2018, has faced the PolitiFact Texas Truth-O-Meter five times—mostly faring well.
In July, most recently, the fact-checking project based at the Austin American-Statesman found True the claim by Straus that the Austin school district was expected to “lose” more than $530 million in local property taxes to other districts through the state’s method of funding public schools.
“Property taxes are going up, and more and more of those dollars are going to school districts in other parts of the state through the Robin Hood system,” Straus said in an email blast distributed two days before a July special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott. Straus elaborated: “School districts are expected to send away $2 billion through Robin Hood in the upcoming year. One district alone — Austin ISD — is expected to lose more than $530 million in local property taxes to Robin Hood this year.”
As of May, the Austin district estimated that in 2017-18 it would flow nearly $534 million in local property tax revenue through the state’s school finance system, nicknamed Robin Hood, to help equalize school funding across the state.
Also rated True: Straus’s 2016 claim in a campaign video that Texas was growing twice as fast as the rest of the U.S. Texas wasn’t the nation’s fastest-growing state—four states were growing faster. But Census Bureau statistics showed Texas was indeed growing faster than the rest of the country as a whole.
In 2012, a fact-check found Mostly True a Straus claim that the 2011 Legislature had expanded public education’s share of state spending. Public education made up a greater share of state spending in the 2012-13 budget than in the 2010-11 budget. Yet the speaker’s statement lacked vital clarifying information—that school funding still took a substantial hit.
Straus drew his worst Truth-O-Meter marks in previous years.
PolitiFact Texas rated Half True a Straus claim that the state budget negotiated in 2011 “funds nursing homes, our public schools and universities and provides financial aid for college students.” His statement failed to acknowledge that the approved funding was mostly at lower levels than before—vital missing context.
Also judged Half True: Straus’s claim after the 2010 elections that the House would have “a record number of new members joining our ranks” in 2011. The House was headed to having a record number of new Republican members. But the general House record for new members wasn’t going to be broken. Straus hadn’t been clear about his focus on Republicans alone.