Education Policy

Fair Funding for the Common Good

A child’s future should not depend on his or her heritage, parents’ income or neighborhood. Our sense of justice insists that America be the land of opportunity where all citizens are considered equal, that wherever a student comes from or lives he or she should have the opportunity to succeed.

All children must have access to quality education. But how we carry this out has led to an ongoing debate. There are still people who have difficulty accepting that access should be relatively equal for all children. Currently, Texas has a two-tiered, unjust public school system that provides poor or mediocre education for most children and excellent education for a select few.

Until the recent backwards steps, many schools were beginning to reap the benefits from the state’s earlier commitment to equalize education funding for all of its children. Student achievement improved, taxpayers were more equally sharing the cost of paying for public schools, and businesses were seeing the results of better-prepared graduates.

After a 12-year span of more equitable school funding, changes were made that weakened the system, privileging a few children to the detriment of many. This was followed by huge unnecessary funding cuts that are crippling our schools.

But we can have a strong public school system that provides an excellent education for all children. We can and we must.

IDRA Policy Issues for Texas in 2017

  • Fair Funding Means Equity and Excellence for All Students
  • Keep the Public in Public Education
  • Effective Accountability that Supports Schools and Puts Children First
  • Testing that Doesn’t Hurt Children
  • Instruction for English Learners Must be Bolstered
  • Higher Education Access for Success

Learn more about IDRA’s priority issues and get useful resources.

Related Stories

Texas Divestment in Public Education

The State of Texas has reduced its share of public education spending during the last decade from 49 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2017. These state cuts to education and increases in property values have resulted in local communities footing the bill for K-12 public schools. And in 2016, Texas received a D on a national school finance report with Texas ranking only 45th in the country. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Education Groups Push State Leaders to Invest in High Quality Public Education for All Children

At the start of the 2017 special session, a diverse collective of education groups with hundreds of thousands of members across Texas called on state leaders to enact positive school finance reform that ensures each and every child in every neighborhood public school has access to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.

IDRA Penny Power Tool

How strong is your local penny of tax for schools compared to your neighbors across Texas? As the state continues to decrease its support of public schools (the state now only covers about 38 percent of the cost), it’s important for communities to know how much bang they are getting for their buck from Texas’s school finance system. IDRA’s Penny Power shows how much revenue your school district generates for each average penny of tax set by local taxpayers and rank orders 1,018 school districts across Texas. Search our Penny Power maps to find out where your school district ranks.

Texas School Finance – What to do about “Recapture”

Recapture is an essential element in funding education in Texas. But, a combination of the state’s failure to invest state tax dollars in education, static equalized wealth levels, and rising property taxes has placed a growing burden on local property taxpayers. The state’s core problem lies in its failure to fund education based on actual costs rather than on a “funds-left-over” basis. There are many ways the state can address recapture, some that improve equity for school districts across Texas and others that diminish equity.

Slide: Fair Funding – Why is it So “Hard” in Texas?
The gap between the poorest 10% of school districts and the wealthiest 10% of districts in weighted property wealth per student is over $1 million.


Slide: Essential Elements of Fair Funding
In order to have equitable and adequate opportunities for all Texas children, we need a system of school funding that provides adequate resources, more efficient and equitable funding, and local meaningful discretion.

The State of Texas Open-Enrollment Charter Schools
IDRA provided written testimony of its research and analysis on charter schools in Texas. The state Senate Committee on Education met December 7 to take up interim charges regarding charters. IDRA’s testimony, “The State of Texas Open-Enrollment Charter Schools and a Modest Proposal to Diversify and Improve Public Charter Schools,” focuses on issues impacting the Texas Senate’s study of the approval, expansion, and revocation of public charter schools in Texas, including the performance of charter schools in Texas and efficiency concerns related to the expanded funding of charter schools. We conclude with a proposal for the Senate to consider an approach to new charters that would aim to ensure high quality, equal educational opportunities in a diverse learning environment.

Latest School Funding Court Case in Texas

The largest school finance case in the state’s history, Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition vs. Williams, consisted of 443 public school districts and representing more than 1.5 million school children.See a general timeline and links to IDRA statements with related resources.

Fair Funding Now! for Texas Education
In 2011, the Texas legislature cut education funding for the first time in four decades. Instead of ending funding disparities, they walked away – pushing millions of Texas children aside. But communities across the state are taking action to make sure that schools are equipped to guarantee that all children graduate ready for college and career. Get tools, handouts, news and more resources at IDRA’s Courageous Connections – Fair Funding Now! website.

White Paper: The Cost of Inequity in Education
This literature review looks at the policy-related research regarding education and the cost of inequity. Research has established that the benefits of providing additional schooling for a greater percentage of students far outweigh the additional expenses that are associated with keeping more students enrolled all the way to graduation from high school and college. This white paper provides a brief background and then looks at the following topics: non-separate, but still unequal; expanding expectations for all schools and all students; access to higher education; economic payoff of high school and college diplomas; the additional costs associated with graduating more students from high school and college; recognition of the non-education based cost of education inequity; and other cost savings correlated with increased levels of educational attainment. It closes with a summary, conclusions and related policy implications.

See Univision San Antonio story: Demandan a Texas por desigualdad educative (with Dr. Albert Cortez)

The Status of School Finance Equity in Texas – A 2009 Update
Texas was headed in the right direction until the last two legislative sessions when revisions made to the school funding plan eroded equity among Texas schools. This update summarizes where things are and identifies changes that are needed. Free online. Available for purchase. See related news release.

Podcast Interview on the Implications of Inequitable School Funding
In this IDRA Classnotes Podcast episode, Encarnación Garza, Jr., assistant professor at UTSA, shares his perspective of inequitable school funding as an issue of social justice through the eyes of a former school principal and superintendent.

Equity Center Radio Highlights Funding Needs for Education of ELLs
Listen to this two-part interview with Dr. Albert Cortez, IDRA director of policy, on Equity Center Radio. Dr. Cortez is interviewed by Ray Freeman, deputy executive director for the Equity Center, about funding for the education of English language learners. Part 1 Part 2


Know the Issue

Quality education is a foundation of American ideals. Knowing the issue is a key place to start. Why Fair Funding – Quickly find out where we’ve been and where we are now Equity vs. Adequacy – Why “adequate” schools set...

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Get the Facts

Local schools in Texas are clustered into districts where decisions are made that affect staffing and resources to those schools. So the quality of education in the classroom is directly tied to state-level funding issues and local decision making. Find...

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Principles for Fair Funding for the Common Good

To help focus on the reforms that may be included in upcoming school reform plans, IDRA uses a set of principles to help assess any proposed school funding reform plan. We welcome their adoption and dissemination by all who agree...

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Fair Funding for the Common Good – Resources

Reference Information on Fair Funding for the Common Good Court Rules: Texas School Funding Must Serve All Students Equitably The ruling on February 4, 2013, by the Texas District Court, Judge John Dietz presiding, that the Texas school finance system...

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Helpful School Finance Links

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Articles and research on fiscal issues affecting low-income families. Includes a detailed article with graphics that presents an overview of education finance. See also “Overview of K-12 Education Finance.” Center for Public Policy Priorities...

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Fair Funding Now!

In the spring of 2011, Texas lawmakers cut $6.4 billion for public education. They left the rainy day fund untapped. And given the chance to end funding disparities, they walked away – pushing millions of Texas children aside. That summer, 12,000 teachers got pink...

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