Other Voices

Here are the two things you need to tell your Texas representative, senator

It has been a year since I took issue with some leaders in our state who were blaming out-of-control property taxes on local governments.

With the new legislature in session, public education and school finance have emerged as top priorities. And like any high-profile issue, there will be a lot of posturing, sound bites, and finger pointing.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Our state constitution says: “it shall be the duty of the legislature of the state to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

    The key words here are: “legislature, suitable provision, support, maintenance, & free schools.”

    Today it is generally accepted that school finance is a shared responsibility of the state legislature and local school districts. We should be equal partners.
  • The complicated formula for funding our schools was created by the state legislature decades ago, has been patched several times but continues to shift more of the financial burden to our local property taxpayers.
  • Currently, a majority of your local property taxes already go to funding public schools. If the state pays an equal share of total school funding, this will be a major step toward property tax relief.

As Texans, we have big expectations. Those expectations should include providing an excellent education to our children.

Various metrics compare how well states are educating their children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 only nine states spent less money per student than Texas, ranking us 41st.

Also in 2016, U.S. News ranked Texas 33rd in educational performance.

When considering these facts, only one word comes to mind: unacceptable.

Even though Texas educators are doing more with less, parents raising children in Texas should be deeply concerned.

As the legislative session gets underway, many of our state’s leaders have expressed a greater interest in committing more money for our public schools. Don’t be fooled by proposals that only limit the growth of property taxes in the state without having adequate revenue attached to it. Your taxes will still increase, and our education system will have even less money to work with.

The governor has proposed an early-childhood development initiative. The Texas House has recommended an additional $9 billion over two years for public school finance. These are both good signs the state is serious about improving the educational outcomes of our children.

You can help!

Your senator and representative need to hear from you. Please, encourage them to do two things:

  1. Increase per-student public education funding, and
  2. Fix the school funding formula to balance the state’s share of the partnership

School finance reform is imperative. Our public education system should be a source of pride, reflecting the greatness of our Lone Star State!

Judge Whitley has been a CPA and has practiced public accounting for over 20 years. He has served on his local school board and is a member of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court and has served as County Judge since 2007.
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