• IDRA Newsletter • February 2007

All children deserve an excellent education, and excellence is impossible without equity. Our children are precious. The future of a child should not depend on that child’s heritage, family income or neighborhood. The ongoing battle over school funding is still about a state at a crossroads – one road offering the possibility of excellent and equitable education of all of our state’s children, the other focused on providing only minimum quality to meet minimum standards.

The Texas Supreme Court’s decision in West Orange-Cove vs. Neeley required that the Texas legislature gather for another special session in 2006 dedicated to the reform of the existing school funding plan. Though taxes and who pays them occupied much attention, it was the funding system that the courts targeted for reform. While some aspects of the current funding plan did need improvement, many Texans were deeply concerned about the oft noted promise to totally dismantle the existing public school funding system and replace it with one that would provide only an “adequate” education for our children, one that would provide minimums for some and quality schools for a few.

In its haste to say it has acted and thereby satisfied the court’s mandates, the legislature created a plan that is less fair, less progressive, less equitable, and that supports mediocrity for most and excellence for a few.

To help focus on the reforms that may be included in the current session, 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 that all children are valuable, and none is expendable.

Principle 1: Funding Equity
Texas must maintain or increase the level of equity found in the existing funding system.

Principle 2: Equal Return for Equal Tax Effort
Texas must specifically provide for equal return for equal tax rates, for all school districts, at all levels of the state permitted tax effort.

Principle 3: Excellent Education
Texas must provide equitable access to excellent education (defined as equitable access to high quality curricula, teaching, support services, and facilities) for all students in all school districts, precluding the need for and thereby prohibiting any local un-equalized enrichment.

Principle 4: Access to Equalized Enrichment
Texas must ensure that, if local supplementation of a state-funded adequate system is allowed, the entire additional local tax effort provides equal yield for equal tax effort, regardless of the local property wealth of individual districts.

Principle 5: Recognizing Special Student Costs
Texas must equitably provide add-on funding based on actual costs of providing appropriate supplemental services to students identified as limited English proficient, low-income, or requiring special education services.

Principle 6: Access to Equalized Facilities Funding
Texas must provide equitable access to funding for school facilities so that all districts have equal access to facilities revenue for equal tax effort. Facilities funding should provide support for updating and maintaining existing facilities, as well as funding for new facilities. Special facilities-related needs for fast growth districts should be recognized in any proposed funding formulae.

Principle 7: Maintaining Levels of State Support
Texas must ensure that the state will fund a minimum of 60 percent of the overall cost of education in the state.

Principle 8: Tax Burden
Texas must base any potential requirement for additional state revenue on adoption of progressive measures of taxation that are based on local school district and/or individuals’ ability to pay taxes, and must not result in a shift of tax burdens from high wealth to all other districts or from more affluent to lower income taxpayers.

Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2007, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2007 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.]