The Texas legislature has taken a step toward overhauling the state's school finance system which critics have said is fundamentally flawed.
During its recent special session, Texas lawmakers passed a bill (SB 16) to create the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. Kevin Roberts, executive vice president for the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), describes the current school finance system in Texas as "the most Byzantine and, therefore, ineffective and inefficient" in the country.
And thus the need for the Commission, he says: "... [T]hose of us who care deeply about education in Texas – and I think that's probably every single Texan – believe that that system needs to be overhauled."
According to an economist with the TPPF, the fundamental problem with the state's school finance system is that it is designed around "equity for school districts rather than equity per student." Roberts expands on that statement, pointing out that because Texas has no state income tax, property taxes are higher to compensate.
"And what has happened is that those property-wealthy districts have to send money to Austin ... to be divvied up among the property-poor districts," he explains – the result being that "some previously high-performing districts are now becoming lower-performing districts."
Roberts also argues that an overhaul of the school finance system could open up opportunities for school choice. Texas currently has no school-choice options.