Texas School Finance Shakedown – er, Lawsuit – Begins Today

October 22, 2012

Raise your hands, Texans!  You are subject to a shakedown.

Today begins a months-long, billion-dollar financial shakedown cloaked as school finance.  The early portion of the trial focuses on funding adequacy.

Again, Texas school districts are using tax dollars to sue the state for more tax dollars.

Lawyers will be the big winners and will be paid millions of our tax dollars to perpetuate this heist.

Each round has resulted in more money flowing into Texas public schools.  But more money isn’t the answer.  According to the Comptroller’s office, K-12 education funding has increased at a rate of five times faster than student enrollment growth from 1999-2009.  But student performance isn’t reflecting that additional investment.

This school finance lawsuit has a new challenge.  This round, taxpayers have entered the lawsuit charging that education dollars are not being spent efficiently.  How can we determine if the funding is adequate if only half of the education funds are spent on instruction and the average school district has one non-teacher for each teacher?

Taxpayers should demand greater efficiency in education funding rather than simply more money.

We should not fail to consider the sizeable debt ISD’s have amassed – $63.6 billion, $108 billion when adding interest due.  In the last 10 years, ISD’s debt per student has risen 110.9%!  (Much of this debt is for facilities.  And were parents given an opportunity to select their child’s school, we would likely need less in facilities funding.   If ISD’s were to determine their enrollment increase and provide that number of education grants the parents could take to a private school, we would eliminate much of the need for these additional buildings.

We at Americans for Prosperity believe we need to forge a new direction which will result in significant savings to taxpayers and improved educational results through competition and consumer choices.

Republicans overwhelmingly voted in the primary that the state should fund education by allowing dollars to follow the child instead of the bureaucracy, through a program which allows parents the freedom to choose their child’s school, public or private, while also saving significant taxpayer dollars.

The votes cast for that nonbinding ballot initiative totaled almost two times the total number of Democrats who voted in their primary.  Unfortunately, this initiative was not on the Democratic primary ballot.  Kids in failing schools need help and partisan politics perpetuates a system which assigns poor kids to failing inner city schools.

This case is certain to make it to the Texas Supreme Court, so consider this “Round 1 – again”.  The ISD attorneys planned it so the lawsuit will be underway during the legislative session, putting pressure on lawmakers to throw more funding at K-12 education.

A great source for education spending in Texas is the Comptroller’s website.

To view how much of our state budget goes to education, click here, page 46 and see that the largest item in the state budget is education – 42% of the state funds go to education (K-12 and higher ed).

We will keep you posted on the lawsuit proceedings.

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