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Robert Jaklich: State funding for education is lacking, uneven

By BY ROBERT JAKLICH
Sept. 22, 2012 at 4:22 a.m.

Robert Jaklich

In the Victoria ISD, we believe that proper funding and equity is essential to the fair treatment of Texas taxpayers and Texas public school children. Today's school finance system is built around a hold-harmless system called "Target Revenue," which currently has funds being dispersed to school districts in an arbitrary fashion. The starting point in establishing a school district's funding is called the "basic allotment," which is a per student allocation that is set by law. The basic allotment is the amount of state and local funding a school district receives to cover the cost of providing a basic instructional program to an "average student" in an "average" school district. The current financial system has created vast inequities of more than $1,500 per student, and is built on adjustments that are nearly thirty years old, with little reflection on current annual costs.

Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution states: "It shall be the duty of the state to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of free public schools." In 1905, the Texas Education Code was amended to state that "Texas will establish a thorough and efficient system to be substantially financed through state revenue sources."

Unfortunately, the current Texas finance system contradicts this expectation. It reduces the lowest funded school districts the same as property wealthy school districts (who are currently receiving a much higher student allotment already). For example, during the 2010-11 school year, the highest funded five percent of school districts in the state received an average of $8,600 in revenue per weighted student. The lowest funded five percent of school districts received an average of $4,700 in revenue per weighted student.

In October 1989, the Texas Supreme Court rendered a unanimous decision in favor of the Edgewood Independent School District in its lawsuit against the State of Texas regarding the inequity of school funding (Edgewood vs. Kirby, 1989). The Supreme Court declared that the legislature had failed to establish a suitable provision for an efficient system of free public schools throughout the state, as mandated by the constitution. The court ordered the legislature to redesign the school finance system so that school districts would have equal access to relatively equal revenues per pupils when making equal tax efforts. This decision was mandated May 1, 1990, and 22 years later, school districts are still challenged with these vast funding inequities.

On Monday, from 5-7 p.m., Save Texas Schools will be providing an in-depth view of the consequences of the budget cuts in the UHV multipurpose room. Allen Weeks, Executive Director of Save Texas Schools, will serve as the keynote speaker.

In the Victoria ISD, we believe that the future of our children begins today, and we cannot allow their educational opportunities and resources to be determined by the zip code in which they reside. We must continue to create a culture where every teacher is a leader and every student is a success. By allowing our challenges to stay before us instead of between us, we can and will achieve more.

Doug Firebaugh once stated; "Success is not what you think it is. Success is what you believe it is." On behalf of our Board of Trustees and the entire Victoria ISD, thank you for your belief in our students, and for reminding us all that "Victoria is too great for small dreams."

Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website visd.com.

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