Area Superintendents Warn About Consequences Of Failed School Finance Bill

May 26, 2017

For numerous years, many school districts across Texas have seen the state’s portion of their funding steadily decrease.  House Bill 21 this legislative session was an effort to begin turning that trend around by rewriting what’s referred to as “the formulas”- the equations used for determining how much state funding is appropriated.

But House Bill 21 was declared dead Wednesday after a voucher measure was attached to it. 

Texas Public Radio reporters talked with two San Antonio area superintendents about how the lack of new state funding will affect their districts.

SAN ANTONIO ISD SUPERINTENDENT PEDRO MARTINEZ

Talked with TPR’s Shelley Kofler

San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez
Credit Courtesy SAISD

San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez says if House Bill 21 had passed his district would have kept about $10 million that will now be sent to the state.  He says 92 percent of his students live in poverty, and the $10 million would have contributed to some big needs.

"I need to more than double the number of behavioral therapists we have because we have children who are seeing trauma and they need therapy services.   We have a small number of social workers.  I could have easily doubled that number.   I have 90 campuses.  I could have added 90 academic coaches because we have so many new teachers who need that support and our children are starting at such a low level academically,” Martinez said.

Superintendent Martinez points out that because school funding formulas haven’t been rewritten for decades, San Antonio ISD and other districts with rising property values will have to give more money back to the state again this year.  House Bill 21 would have limited that loss.

“Assume nothing else changes for us-same enrollment of children, same exact needs, nothing else – we’re seeing a reduction from last year of $14 million in state revenue.  And why is that?  Because our funding formulas have not changed,” Martinez said.

Martinez hopes lawmakers revisit the issue of school funding calculations soon because, he says, the state’s contribution to public school budgets will continue to decrease in many districts until they do.

SUPERINTENDENT BRIAN WOODS, NORTHSIDE ISD

By Steve Short

Dr. Brian Woods, Northside ISD, is disappointed that lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on a school funding bill.

NISD Superintendent Brian Woods
Credit nisd.net / Northside ISD

The district has already set its budget for the next school year, and did not anticipate a funding increase, so it won’t have an immediate impact.  But it could affect operations in the future.

“Going forward however, there will be there will be impacts,” said Woods. “I don’t know very many schools in our part of the state at least who will be able to continue to improve their programming, add additional staff to accommodate new students, unless the legislature does something with regard to school funding.”

Woods points out that the district has not had a tax rate election, a TRE, and doesn’t anticipate raising its tax rate.

“After the last big round of cuts in 2011, when some of those cuts were restored in 2013 and 2015, we didn’t put everything back. And we’ve been kind of setting money aside for this anticipation that we would continue not to get any additional revenue,” said Woods.

He adds with the rate of growth in NISD, they have been going out to their patrons every four years or so asking for a bond election and he doesn’t think it’s reasonable to ask for a rate increase, too.