You can now find your school district’s funding breakdown. Texas’ school finance system is a complex series of formulas that determine how much local and state funding goes to public schools. Since IDRA’s founding in 1973, IDRA has worked to make public school funding transparent and accessible. This month, we launched our new Texas School Finance Data Dashboards. The dashboards model the state and local funds that flow to each school district by Texas county and education service center region.
The first three dashboards are available now:
- The State versus Local Share Dashboard compares the portion of state versus local funding to school districts.
- The Texas Bilingual Education Funding Dashboard shows the amount of bilingual education dollars from the state, including the new dual language allotment, going to school districts.
- The Texas Special Education Funding Dashboard shows special education funding from the state for each Texas school district.
IDRA will release more dashboards and detailed analyses over the course of the legislative session this spring.
In the meantime, here are five things to know about Texas school finance.
1. School funding is based on student attendance. The Texas formula uses a school’s average daily attendance (ADA) to calculate additional weighted funds based on student and district characteristics, which creates the “weighted ADA” or WADA. This is the building block for the school finance formula and drives the amount of funds school districts receive to serve their students. Given school enrollment declines during the pandemic, schools need to have extended hold harmless funding (based on last year’s attendance) to get through this school year and to prepare for the next.
Even with the monies provided through HB 3, the lack of equitable and adequate funding for excellent public schools continues to be a central civil rights concern.
2. School funding is still a matter of where you live. With state funds provided through House Bill 3 (passed in 2019), high property-wealth school districts can tax residents at lower rates, while poorer school districts have to tax at higher rates to get the same funding. Residents in low property-wealth school districts actually pay more in school taxes relative to their tax base. This is an ongoing source of inequity in the state school finance system.
3. Only one in five emergent bilingual (English learner) students is served in a dual language bilingual education program. The new dual language allotment established in 2019 serves only one fifth of emergent bilingual students but takes up more than one third of the total bilingual education allotment. The bilingual education allotment is an important tool to protect the civil rights of emergent bilingual students. We must make sure that funds flow to educating the students who need it most.
4. Over 10% of Texas students receive special education services. State funding for special education increased under HB 3, but is still not at the level needed. Students receiving these services require immediate educational assistance due to the pandemic.
5. Public schools remain underfunded. Though the legislature invested $6.5 billion in new funds for the school finance system in 2019 through HB 3, it barely made up for the education cuts state leaders made in 2011. Since then, schools have experienced rising enrollment and increasing costs to provide a basic education, though the state does not adjust for inflation. State lawmakers should make adjustments to safeguard the future of education for Texas children.
Even with the monies provided through HB 3, the lack of equitable and adequate funding for excellent public schools continues to be a central civil rights concern (Craven, 2019). See IDRA’s Texas priority brief, “Fair Funding for Strong Public School Education,” for more information and recommendations for the Texas legislature.
Calabrese Barton, A., & Tan, E. (2020). Beyond Equity as Inclusion: A Framework of “Rightful Presence” for Guiding Justice-oriented Studies in Teaching and Learning, Educational Researcher.
Craven, M. (June-July 2019) Texas Legislature Concentrates on School Funding, IDRA Newsletter.
IDRA. (2021). Fair Funding for Strong Public School Education – IDRA Texas Priority Brief. IDRA.
Moore-Mensah, F. (2020). “A need for anti-racist/abolitionist science teaching,” presentation.
Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., is IDRA’s education data scientist. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D., is IDRA’s deputy director of policy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2021 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]