Texas Legislature fails to provide sufficient funding for schools

Texas Legislature fails to provide sufficient funding for schools
Posted on 07/13/2017
Texas Legislature fails to provide sufficient funding for schools

By Art Del Barrio

PISD Communication Director

The Texas Legislature has sent shockwaves across the state as their attempt to overhaul the school finance system died when the House and Senate could not compromise on a version of House Bill 21.  The original bill would have provided an additional $1.64 billion dollars in funding to Texas schools and over $10 million for Pasadena ISD.

While the Legislature continues to lower the state’s portion of education funding, Pasadena ISD along with districts across the state are dealing with the ripple effects and have begun to streamline their budgets as they deal with increasing cost factors.

“In the last 10 years we have seen a major decrease in the amount of dollars the state allocates to schools, we were once on a 50-50 ratio with the state; that number is now closer to 38 percent from the state and 62 percent provided by the community and other federal sources,” said Pasadena ISD Superintendent Dr. DeeAnn Powell.

Since 2006, the Legislature has utilized the same formula for funding schools.

While the Texas Legislature  has demonstrated an increased awareness in cost factors and the strain they cause on school districts, their recent stalemate and failure to  pass a bill for even slight relief will have detrimental effects on fund balances across the state.

Pasadena ISD has weathered years of state cuts and has managed to pass several bonds in the last ten years (without a tax increase) while maintaining a healthy fund balance.  

“Our Board has gone above and beyond in their role as fiscal stewards.  They have a shared  vision to keep the district in superior fiscal standing while expanding programs and opportunities for students,” said Powell. 

Factors leading to the rise in cost of education are vast.  According to a recent publication by TASA/TASB entitled ‘State Mandates on School Districts,’ the impact of inflation, especially on staff salaries is one of the largest cost factors in school districts. Further, unfunded and underfunded mandates dramatically impact the bottom line.   

The report outlines over 100 unfunded or underfunded mandates in nine different categories.  While it is safe to imply these mandates are necessary, the document was created to identify the strain these mandates place on a school district budget.  Some examples of unfunded mandates are the purchase of automated external defibrillators for every campus along with the required training.  Criminal background checks, Community and Student Engagement projects and Video Cameras in Special Education settings are other state mandates.

The publication states that other factors impacting the budget include: the growing student population, the growing population of economically disadvantaged students, and the increased costs of utilities, fuel and insurance. 

“When you stop and put a pencil to every one of these factors it’s easy to see that there is going to be a major impact on our bottom line,” added Powell. 

While the Legislature has called a special session in late July, the current agenda fails to address school funding.  “We would hope that people, not just from Pasadena ISD, but from around the state would let their representatives and senators know that education matters need to be addressed and not put on the back burner,” concluded Powell.