By Charlotte Aguilar
Houston ISD and other property-rich school districts throughout Texas received an unlucky Friday the 13th surprise: a 100-page ruling from the state Supreme Court upholding the “Robin Hood” system of school financing, requiring them to turn over millions of taxpayer dollars to help equalize funding for smaller districts with less of a tax base.
HISD had joined with two-thirds of Texas school districts to sue the state, and it was the seventh time the funding system had been reviewed by the high court.
Small consolation: The court described the recapture system as “undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement,” and said that schools “deserve transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid.” In the end, though, the court found the system “satisfies minimum constitutional requirements.”
West University Elementary, Lanier and Pin Oak middle schools, Lamar High School and other Houston ISD campuses popular with West U families stand to lose millions of dollars in the coming year as HISD grapples with the consequences of the state system.
The proposed budget would cut $40 million in allocations to campuses to help make up for the projected $107 million shortfall.The administration has also proposed $60 million in cuts to its central office and to centrally-funded contracts and programs.
Budgeting for the 2016-17 school year has seen the perfect storm of chronic low funding by the state — which has put the burden on local districts — and inaction by the State Legislature to remedy the problem.
Although about 80 percent of HISD students are considered low-income, the district’s healthy property tax base, coupled with increasing values, throw it into the “rich” category.
As a decentralized district, HISD is allowing each campus to decide how to handle the cuts.
Under the plan presented by the administration to trustees, West University ES would lose $376,618, a decrease in its budget of 7.8 percent or $295 for each student.
Here are other proposed reductions at area schools:
Lanier MS -$422,630 -7.7 percent
Pin Oak MS -$318,268 -6.7 percent
Lamar HS -$550,674 -4.2 percent
To read the court ruling, click here.