85th Legislative Session – Regular & Special
The 85th legislative session adjourned sine die on May 29, 2017 and reconvened in special session July 18, 2017.
School finance reform (HB 21) was passed by the House in both the regular and special sessions. While the House version of HB 21 passed during the regular session would have provided Austin ISD approximately $17 million per year, the Senate version would have done little to reform finance and offered no financial benefits to the district. The bill also included educational savings accounts, a form of vouchers, for special education students.
HB 21 passed by the House during the special session would have provided AISD with approximately $19-20 million per year, but the bill ultimately passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor provided no relief to many district, including Austin ISD.
Significant issues in school finance remain unaddressed, including:
- The high level of recapture paid by many districts, including Austin ISD;
- The ongoing decline of the state portion of the total cost of education, leaving local property tax payers, especially in areas with rapidly rising property values, carrying the burden of the school finance system; and
- The outdated Cost of Education Index, which results in severe funding deficits to Austin ISD
There are hopes that these issues will be addressed during the interim by the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, created under HB 21, to develop and make recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools.
The Austin ISD Board of Trustees adopted Legislative Priorities and Issues for the 85th Legislative Session that support:
- reforming the state’s school finance system;
- maintaining local control and reforming the state's accountability system; and
- supporting specialized programming such as Pre-K programs and mental health services.
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School finance reform
The school finance system has been described as “Byzantine” at best, and the Austin community shoulders much of the burden of a finance system designed in the 1980s. Austin ISD is projected to send $406.1 million in taxpayer dollars to the state in the 2017 fiscal year as part of the state’s recapture system. AISD is projected to pay almost $2.6 billion in recapture from fiscal years 2016–2020.
By 2019, more than half of every dollar collected by the district will go to the state. Also, the state's portion of funding for public education has been declining. The state paid nearly 50 percent of the cost in 2008 and pays less than 43 percent of the costs now.
AISD is the single largest payer of recapture, representing approximately 13 percent of the total $2 billion collected by the state. The district’s legislative priorities and issues focus on changing the school finance formulas to allow more of our taxpayers’ dollars to remain in our and help our students.
Additional resources are needed to support a diverse student population in which:
- Nearly six of 10 children in AISD are from economically disadvantaged homes.
- For almost one in three, English is not the first language.
- There are more than 94 languages spoken throughout the district.
- One in 10 children is classified as having a learning or other disability.
Local control and Accountability
Austin ISD supports public schools governed by locally elected school boards. The school board should have the flexibility to lower tax rates and, if needed, return them to previously voter-approved rates at a later date. The district opposes unfunded mandates.
Austin ISD supports repeal of the legislation requiring A–F grades for school and districts. Instead the state should require school districts to develop their own assessment and accountability systems based on general guidance from the state. Such an accountability framework would allow districts to innovate and customize curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of students and communities.
Also, the state should reduce the use of high-stakes, standardized tests, and instead allow districts to adopt multiple assessments that reflect greater validity and more accurately capture academic proficiency and growth.
Excellence in programming and services
Providing mental and behavior health services to adolescents at the first signs of emotional distress increases academic performance and lessens disciplinary issues. The legislature should support the district’s efforts regarding campus-based mental and behavior health services, and ensure that campus-based behavioral health counselors are admitted to insurance programs as in-network providers.
AISD is proud of the wide variety of academic options and support services it provides. The legislature should continue to support excellence in programming by expanding grant funding for high-quality Pre-K.
Learn about Taxparency
Taxparency is an effort of school districts to clearly demonstrate how local school property taxes and state funding are being used to fund public education. Generally, as property values, and thus property taxes, rise, the percentage of state funding going to education is decreasing.
To see how much of your AISD property taxes are sent to the state in the form of recapture and also fund other parts of the district budget, visit My Tax Dollars at Work.
- House committee meetings
- Senate committee meetings
- Raise Your Hand Texas
- Texas Association of School Boards
- Texas PTA
- Texas School Coalition
- Texas Association of School Administrators
- Coalition for Public Schools
- Texans for Strong Public Schools
- Center for Public Policy Priorities
- Texans Advocating for Meaningful School Assessment
- Analysis: Why Rising Property Values Don't Lower School Taxes
- Analysis: The State’s Declining Support for Public Education in Texas
- Analysis: The Challenge of Making a Property Tax Cut Pitch Pay Off in Texas
- Texas A–F Grades Make Low-Income Schools Look Worse, Analysis Shows
- Are Your Property Taxes Too High? Thank A Legislator
- Analysis: A State School Finance System That Can Choke A City's Growth
- Analysis: The Taxes Texas School Districts Are Afraid to Cut