Guest Column: District prioritizes: Priority One

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In November, the Sealy ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to promote four key priorities for our legislators to address this session. These priorities are important to the children of Sealy ISD and to the community. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will discuss each priority individually so the community can become educated and, hopefully, participate in urging our legislators toward action.

Our first priority involves a call for adequate funding for public schools in the great state of Texas. Before we talk about how much schools receive, let's discuss the other side of the equation. Like most of you, my property taxes went up last year. Unlike most of you, I know that those increases in property taxes do not translate directly into increased revenue for schools. As your property values increase, resulting in higher school taxes, the state has been using the additional money to offset their constitutionally required contribution to funding education.

Article 7 of the Texas Constitution states:

"...it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."

According to The Texas Tribune, in 2008, the state and the local taxpayers contributed almost equally to the cost of public education, with the federal government kicking in about 11 percent of total revenue. Currently, local taxpayers are paying 51.5 percent of the cost of education compared to the state's 38.4 percent contribution. Had the state continued to shoulder its fair share of the burden, school districts across the state could have lowered their taxes in response to increased property values. But instead of giving the money for the increased property value to schools, the state pocketed the difference and put the money into the general fund. By doing this, lawmakers are shifting their constitutional responsibility for funding education down to the local taxpayer.

But that's only part of the story. The US Census study in 2014 ranked Texas 43rd out of 50 in per pupil expenditure for education. Put another way, 42 of the 50 states place a higher priority on educating their children than Texas does, with several spending more than twice as much per pupil. It's a miracle and a testament to good teachers throughout the state that we have been able to do what we do. Remember this statistic next time you hear a criticism of Texas public education: 43rd out of 50 in how we finance our schools. Why would we not set a goal to have the best schools in the nation? Wouldn't that be in everyone's best interest? Our lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves. Forty-third out of 50.

Finally, let's look at the funding mechanism itself. When adjusted for inflation, state spending on a per-student basis is lower than it was 10 years ago. The narrative from lawmakers is that Texas keeps spending more money on education every year. True. But, what politicians don't say is that Texas is adding an average of 80,000 new students every year. Of course that's going to cost more money. But the children aren't coming here by themselves. They are moving here with parents who are now part of the local economy, paying their fair share of taxes, and expecting that their children will receive an adequate education. Funding growth is a zero sum transaction because the costs are offset by more people participating in the local economy.

The constant calls by politicians to hold schools accountable needs to be answered by an even louder call to for lawmakers to do what is right. Our children and our state deserve better. You can't buy a Cadillac for the price of a Kia, but perhaps we can get them to agree to fund a Chevy.

Forty-third out of 50 in how we fund our schools. Our lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves.

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