TTARA School Finance Update

Posted by Randy Paine, on Mon November 05 2012 at 10:27 PM

This summary was provided Friday from the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association:

Lynn Moak, a name partner of Moak, Casey and Associates, testified that the Legislature reduced funding to school districts by $5.4 billion in the current biennium.  At the same time, 9th grade students were taking the more rigorous end of course tests under the new State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests in a transition from the TAKS test to STAAR.  He stated that 47% of all students – 31% of non-economically disadvantaged students and 60% of economically disadvantaged students—failed at least one end-of-course test.  These students required remediation, either during the summer or during the current school year, which is expensive for school districts and disrupts class scheduling, making it more difficult for students to graduate on time.  Mr. Moak testified that in order to supply school districts with the needed resources to address this problem, it would require an additional $8.5 billion per year – restoring the $2.5 billion in annual cuts from the last biennium, plus an additional $1,000 per weighted student.  When asked if he could prove that this additional funding would lead to increased student performance, Mr. Moak said he could not.  State attorneys pointed out that Texas ranks 12th on the “Quality Counts National Report Card” which measures 8th grade student performance on the NAEP tests.

Wayne Pierce, Executive Director of the Equity Center testified that the gap between the amount of revenue per weighted student between property poor and property wealthy districts has increased since 2006, and showed this discrepancy in many different iterations.  The top 15% of districts ranked by property wealth per weighted student have access to $7,535 per weighted student at an average M&O rate of $1.02, while the bottom 15% have access to only $5,581 at an average M&O tax rate of $1.10, a difference of $1,954.  If all districts taxed at $1.17 M&O rate, the top 15% would have access to $8,656 per weighted student, while the bottom 15% would only have access to $5,896, a gap of $2,760.  Dr. Pierce testified that in Edgewood IV, the Texas Supreme Court suggested that a “general diffusion of knowledge” would cost $3,500 per weighted student (in 1993 dollars).  That amount would be $6,576 in today’s dollars, and only 233 districts would be able to generate that amount at $1.17 M&O tax rate, and only 130 districts can generate it at $1.04 M&O tax rate, the highest rate a district can adopt without an election.  Dr. Pierce also showed groupings of districts with student SAT and ACT scores going up as available revenue increases, and stated that there is a strong correlation between the amount of revenue spent by districts and these test scores.

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