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School funding - an ongoing dialogue in the Legislature

Contributed by BISD

School funding is not a new issue. Lawmakers and public schools have debated this issue for years and it will continue to be an item of concern for years to come. Many talk about the inequity of the system, others talk about the availability of funds in an economy that is in trouble. Many legislators are already commenting that the State's budget in 2013 could be anywhere from 10 billion to 15 billion dollars short when they are in the next legislative session.
Based on this fact, schools can anticipate getting very little additional state aide or increases in aide through the next biennium that ends in 2015. The current system is based on three main sources; local sources (based upon local property values), state funding formulas; and federal funds. The amount of funds generated from each source is based on two main factors:
1. Local property values and
2. Enrollment and school attendance rates. Lawmakers passed House Bill 1 in 2006 which lowered local tax rates and based all school funding on "Target Revenues." In previous years, school districts were funded through formulas based upon cost and equity considerations. Texas schools are now funded through target revenue per WADA (weighted average daily attendance) and currently there is no plan for increases to offset inflation.
The target revenue established by the State for Bandera ISD is a combination of local taxes and state revenue and that target is set and will not change. As local property values go up, state funding is reduced to hit the "Revenue Target" therefore, we are revenue neutral. The only way to generate more revenue in this system, without tax increases, is to have more children enroll in school. Higher property values and the new tax revenue generated will simply drop the amount the State sends to Bandera ISD.
The current school finance system does not allow for inflation including the increased cost of fuel, programs or personnel cost-of-living increases. Local school boards do not have the authority anymore to raise the tax rate to generate additional revenue. The only way to change the target revenues is by increasing local taxes through a tax ratification election. School boards could have the option of calling for a tax ratification election that, if approved by voters, could increase the maintenance and operation taxes. Bandera ISD has no plans at this time to call for a tax ratification election.
Texas state law and Bandera ISD policy require all students attend class a minimum of 90% of the number of days in the semester. Students may not be absent more than 18 parts of days, and are required to attend 180 days during the school year in order to be considered for promotion. We believe that school attendance is important not only for finance but also for the academic success of the student. Bandera staff work diligently daily to encourage school attendance for our students.
As the district receives information on expected revenue and funding issues facing our district, we will provide follow up articles related to school finance.