Mayor's Office Press Release
Mayor Turner Issues Statement on Local Impact of State's Robin Hood School Finance Plan
February 26, 2016 --
Statement from Mayor Sylvester Turner
"Dramatic demographic and economic changes in the current student population demand reasonable and timely reform to the State's school finance system. Principals at our local schools should not be forced to balance their budgets on the backs of our most precious resource, children. Will it come down to the loss of teachers, after school programs, the arts, or support staff? Principals should not be forced into this zero-sum game that compromises the quality of education and destabilizes the school environment. Children need a stable, supportive, and nurturing learning environment. This is especially true for schools that serve at-risk students who are struggling to meet ambitious state assessment standards. This budgetary crisis compromises educational opportunity for all.
The current school finance system is broken. It was deemed inefficient and unconstitutional by a lower court, and while an appeal is pending before the Texas Supreme Court, the issues that Houston now faces beg that the current finance system be reformed to meet the modern challenges and opportunities that we cumulatively face. If we want our young people, regardless of zip code to be empowered with 21st Century knowledge and skills, we must adequately and appropriately invest in public education to help all students reach their full potential.
Given the circumstances, Houston now stands at a crossroads or ground zero for the future of public education in Texas. Houston needs an educated and empowered workforce for a prosperous future. Do we invest now or pay later? Will Houston remain the City of the Future or be a modern example of A Tale of Two Cities. We are far too wise to choose the latter, but this crisis is present and cannot be ignored or delayed any longer."
In order to eliminate a projected $107 million shortfall, the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school district in the State of Texas, may soon experience the deepest budget cuts since 2011. HISD's preliminary analysis predicts that each school may lose $179 per student. In application, this means that a campus with 1000 students could potentially lose $179,000, leaving the principal with the difficult decision of cutting teachers, programs, or services.
HISD also expects to owe $161 million to the State due to the current Texas school finance system's "Robin Hood Plan," which came into being almost thirty years ago. While this system was designed for property tax rich districts to provide money back to the State to help finance impoverished school districts, HISD is now a property tax wealthy district that serves 215,000 students of which eighty percent are classified as economically disadvantaged. Additionally, Spring Branch Independent School District is subject to recapture, losing $8 million in 2015, and anticipating a more significant loss of $35 million in 2016.