As school finance lawsuits pile up against the state of Texas, it is important to know what the Glen Rose Independent School District is doing financially to benefit students across the state of Texas.
Since 1993, Glen Rose ISD - a district of 1,650 students - has contributed over $552 million of local tax revenue to the state's school finance system. That amount of money could have fully operated Glen Rose schools until the year 2042.
This school year, Glen Rose will send another $14 million of local tax dollars to the state, which is about 50 percent of all local revenue. At the same time, GRISD will be required to make cuts of $1.8 million during the current biennium.
This scenario is repeated in hundrends of school districts across Texas.
Since 1993, revenue-contributing schools have infused more than $15,000,000,000 into the statewide school finance system and they are projected to pay more than $1 billion this school year.
In some cases, these districts are surrendering as much as 70 percent of their local tax revenue to the state - money paid by local residents and business. This money is used to fund educational programs for schoolchildren throughout the state, improving the quality of education for all Texas schoolchildren.
Obviously, the current school finance system was not our idea and we initially chafed at it, but we have come to accept it. Revenue-contributing districts, however, cannot save the current system. The level of state funding has fallen to such a point that school districts do not have the resources they need to do their jobs.
It is neither possible, nor desirable, to take enough local tax revenue from revenue-contributing schools to make a difference of any financial significance when it comes to bringing up the lowest wealth districts. Not enough money exists. The state lawmakers most versed in school finance looked at this very issue during the 82nd Legislative Session and came to the same conclusion.
The solution is for the Texas Legislature to meet its responsibility by bringing all students and schools up to an adequate funding level, not by forcing a reduction in educational programs. In the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers were on the brink of permanently reducing funding for hundreds of schools based on the notion of having low funding for all districts.
Because it relies on revenue-contributing schools to make school finance work, the system has grown steadily to encompass more districts, more students and much more revenue since 1993.
In 1993, 35 districts qualified as revenue-contributing schools. Today, 354 districts are eligible as revenue-contributing schools.
Revenue-contributing schools originally contained 1 percent of the public school students. Now, more than 34 percent of Texas students are in revenue-contributing schools.
Taxpayers in the original 35 districts paid $132 million to the state education system the first year. This school year, local taxpayers in revenue-contributing school districts will pay an estimated $1.12 billion to the state. Recapture is currently the 3rd largest source of revenue for the state of Texas.
The time has come to ask, How much is enough? Will the state ever by satisfied?
Texas' school finance system is complicated, outdated - some would say illogical - and it is very close to permanently damaging students and taxpayers. The dramatic - and ongoing - growth in the number of revenue-contributing schools clearly indicates the state of Texas is failing to do its part to finance public education.
All Texas schoolchildren benefit from revenue-contributing schools. But there is not enough money in revenue-contributing schools to effectively fix the system without doing serious damage to the children in these schools.
Independent school districts must have meaningful fiscal discretion to make decisions that reflect the values of their local community. That local discretion has been seriously eroded, contrary to our state's strong tradition of local control of schools. Local discretion, which enables revenue-contributing schools to flourish, will keep their contributions to the statewide system strong.
If Texas punishes revenue-contributing schools, all schoolchildren will suffer.