Survey: Most Texans want the state to boost its school funding share

Most Texans support increasing funding for the state’s public schools, according to results of a survey released by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium on Monday.

The survey was based on the responses of about 500 registered voters that showed that 71 percent favored increasing the state‘s share of education funding to provide property tax relief.

“The state’s financial contribution to public education has declined significantly over most of the last six to eight years, leaving local taxpayers to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden. It’s time for the state to step up and increase funding for public education,” said Lewisville school trustee Kristi Hassett in a consortium news release.

The results of the survey were released Monday morning before the Texas Commission on Public School Finance was to convene and take public input for the first time. The 13-member group is tasked with making recommendations to the Texas Legislature by the end of the year on ways to fix the state’s beleaguered school finance system.

The complicated way Texas public schools are funded has long been criticized as inadequate and outdated, no longer reflecting the actual expenses of teaching Texas children.

School district officials have complained that they’re relying more on local property taxes for funding while the state has shirked its responsibility. The state’s funding share will be 38 percent next year. Seven years ago, the state funding share was close to 50 percent.

Despite more than a half-dozen lawsuits over the past 30 years, the system has remained essentially unchanged.

After the latest lawsuit was filed, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the school finance system was constitutional but barely held together by a complicated patchwork of fixes.

The latest survey also showed that 68 percent favored increasing the state’s share of public education funding to 50 percent.

Additionally, 86 percent favored a requirement that recapture dollars school districts send to the state must be used for public education, and not used to fill other budget shortfalls or fund other programs. Property-wealthy school districts must send recapture dollars to the state and the money is made available in the state’s general revenue fund to help support property-poor school districts. Public school advocates have raised concerns that all the recapture money being collected is allowing the state to decrease its share of education funding and to use the money it’s not spending on education on other state expenses.

The Austin school district sends more recapture money to the state than any other school district in Texas — an estimated $534 million this year, which is about 50 percent of the district’s operating budget.

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