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Public Education

Snapshot of Texas Education System

2nd of 50 states in public school enrollmenti
Texas ranks 44th in the nation in expenditures per student.ii

Based on the 2012-2013 ranking estimates, Texas expenditures per pupil were 22 percent less
than the national average.iii

Texas ranks 47th in SAT Scoresiv

Texas ranks 49th in the percentage of the population 25 and older with a
High School Diplomav

Texas ranks 50th in percentage of population that has graduated from High Schoolvi

Education Votes by the Legislature

-Members of the legislature in 2013 voted to prohibit any funding for vouchers or tax credit
scholarships, 103-43 - 83R SB 1 RV#169 HJ 1307.
-Members of the legislature ultimately voted down a controversial proposal to remove quality
standards, safeguards and accountability measures for local school districts and allow outside
interests to take over a school district - 84R HB 1798 RV#1052 HJ 3369.
-Voted against funding Pre-k so that all eligible students would be able to enroll - 84R HB 1 RV#129
HJ 1147
-Voted against requiring a prekindergarten class to have at least one qualified teacher and maintain
an average ratio in a prekindergarten class of not less than one qualified teacher or educational
aide for each 18 students 84R HB 4 RV#175 HJ 1421.
-Voted to leave billions of dollars unspent instead of using them to restore the cuts to public
education - 84R HB 1 RV#128 HJ 1145
-Voted against increasing education funding by $800 million - 84R HB 1 RV#92 HJ 1075
-Voted against requiring the Attorney General to discuss settling the school finance lawsuit against
the state - 84R HB 1 RV#110 HJ 1087
-Voted against requiring school districts to report alleged discrimination or harassment of a school
district employee or student on the basis of the actual or perceived ethnicity, color, gender, gender
identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national origin of the employee or
student - 84R HB 1 RV#130 HJ 1148

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Providing an education for every child is the most important thing we can do to ensure a safe, secure,
and prosperous future. Texas public education system is at a crossroads: with diverse sets of students,
advances in technology and a global economy, we must work to make our public schools a model for the
future. The school finance system built by Republicans cannot keep up with the needs of school districts
in Texas. We must improve teacher pay and working conditions to attract and retain the qualified
teachers our children deserve. We cannot afford to take tax dollars from public schools to pay for a
school voucher program to allow a select few to attend private schools. We must continue to guard
against high stakes testing and private takeover of our public schools.
School Finance
Rather than making the hard choices to create a real school finance plan that invests in our childrens
future, the Legislature created a failing plan that guarantees no new dollars can be used to improve
education. Additionally, Republicans built in a structural deficit that ensures that state General Revenue
dollars are used to fill in the massive shortfall, instead of going to their intended areas such as energy,
transportation, public safety, and other state priorities. Courts have found that the finance system
violates the Texas Constitution, but the state continues to prolong the litigation to avoid having to act to
fix the broken system.
Nearly 5 million Texas students attend classes in 1,030 independent school districts that are funded with
a combination of local property taxes, state funds that are distributed through various formulas, and
targeted federal funding.
Local districts vary tremendously both in terms of student population and the districts property wealth,
factors that have shaped Texas school finance debates for decades. However, by 2006 the state share of
education funding had fallen so dramatically that both rich and poor districts challenged the state
system in court because property tax rates had reached their legal limit, which resulted in a Texas
Supreme Court ruling and a new method of financing our schools.
In Texas, public schools are financed by property taxes, matching federal and state dollars, and other
general revenue dollars the state commits to public schools.
Prior to the 2006 school finance plan, each school district received money based on the property tax
rate of the district. Schools received a certain rate of money per $100 in taxable property value. For
example, a person who owned a home with $100,000 in taxable property value and who lived in an area
where the property tax rate was $1.00 would pay $1,000 to the school district in which his or her home
was located.
School districts and local governments had raised the property tax rates up to $1.50 to maximize the
amount of money schools could receive. When most every school district had reached this statewide
$1.50 cap, it then became a de-facto statewide property tax, which is illegal under the Texas
constitution. Therefore, the Legislature was charged with coming up with a new way to finance our
public schools.
In 2006 a school finance plan passed that raised taxes on 90% of Texas families in order to cut taxes for
the wealthiest 10% of Texans and never actually put additional funds into addressing the biggest issue:
how to adequately invest in public education.

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In order to meet the Supreme Court ruling that the effective statewide property tax was illegal, Texas
had to revamp the way it financed schools. Republicans came up with a new set of taxes that bought
down property taxes but put no new money into our public schools. All of these new tax dollars then
went into a new fund called the Property Tax Relief Fund. Here, these dollars would be used to buy
down property taxes to $1.00 in 2007 and beyond.
No new dollars generated by these new taxes went to increase payments for education, they only went
to tax cuts.
Because the Legislature did not change the formula for funding schools they just swapped out dollars
Texas public schools are facing rising costs in transportation, utilities, and the general increases that
come from an ever-expanding student population.
The tax swap turned out to not be a swap revenues generated by the new taxes fail to offset the
decrease in the state property tax cap. Billions of dollars from the states General Revenue fund are
needed to backfill that gap, meaning Texas has a structural deficit, or a budget deficit that is not the
result of changes in the economic cycle. The structural deficit will exist even when the economy is not in
Republican Budget Cuts to Public Education
In 2011, the state faced a multibillion dollar budget shortfall. Instead of tapping the Rainy Day Fund or
finding additional sources of revenue, the state chose to cut $5.4 billion from public schools. This led to
almost 21,000 fewer teachers and staff in our classrooms, three times as many over-crowded
classrooms in 2011-12 as in the prior year, and six lawsuits filed against the state by parents, districts
and education advocates.vii
Of those $5.4 billion in cuts, per-pupil formula funding was cut by $4 billion and discretionary grants to
school districts by $1.4 billion. In 2013 and 2015, even with a budget surplus and a full Rainy Day Fund,
the Legislature failed to fully restore the cuts and fund enrollment growth in schools. Formula funding
was partially restored but left average per-pupil funding more than $500 short of the level reached
before the 2011 budget cuts.
It costs about $1.5 billion every two years to fund enrollment growth and the rising costs of current
services. To fully restore public schools to the pre-recession funding level of 2008 requires $5.9 billion
per biennium in additional funding.

School Finance System in Court

Due to the Republican budget cuts and the failures in the school finance system, over two thirds of the
schools districts in Texas sued the state of Texas. A total of six different suits brought by school districts,
parents, business groups and charter schools were combined in Austin. The school districts have sued
the state on three different grounds: efficiency, adequacy and meaningful discretion. The Texas
Constitution requires that the state provide efficient and adequate funding for public schools. It also
says that school districts must have the ability to choose how they spend money they bring in from
property taxes.viii
The school finance system built by Republicans cannot keep up with the needs of school districts in
Texas. The Texas Tribune breaks down the details of the suits:
Efficiency: Three different plaintiffs are using this language to ask for three different outcomes. The Equity
Center lawsuit is using "efficiency" to argue that the inequity in the school finance system is
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unconstitutional. Claims from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Fort
Bend ISD group also touch on this argument. Charter schools take a slightly different approach. They
argue the cap on charter contracts and a lack of facilities funding impede their growth, which they believe
makes the system unconstitutional. Another party, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education,
says that because the state doesnt know how much it costs to educate a child, theres no way the system
is efficient.
Adequacy: The adequacy argument is based on the charge that the state has failed to dedicate enough
money to public education for schools to meet increasingly rigorous standards. Case in point? The 2011
Legislature cut roughly $5.4 billion from public education and didn't fund an influx of 80,000 new students
amid the rollout of a new accountability system based on the STAAR exams. All of the lawsuits, except
those brought by TREE and the charter school association, bring up this argument.
Meaningful Discretion: In underfunding public schools, some plaintiffs argue, the state has not given local
districts enough choice in setting their own property taxes in effect, instituting an unconstitutional
statewide property tax. All of the groups except for the charter schools and TREE, which dropped this part
of their complaint in response to a motion from MALDEF, make this argument. ix

In 2013, Austin District Court Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of the school districts because the
Legislature cut $5.4 billion from public schools while simultaneously raising accountability and
assessment standards.x Instead of responding to pressure from public schools and parents, the
legislature responded by only partially restoring the cuts. The meager funding increases were
inadequate: The Basic Allotment per student is set at $5,140 for state fiscal 2016 and 2017. Using the
Comptrollers forecast of CPI, by 2017, the Basic Allotment will be $4,947 in 2015 dollars, lower than
what it was in 2014 or 2015.xi
During the 2011 budget cuts, Texas Republicans cut $1.4 billion in grants to public schools, which
included the $200 million Pre-K Early Start Grant. Due to the cuts, many districts cut other programs so
they could continue to provide some Pre-K services. The combined cuts to Pre-K in 2011 resulted in a
$288M cut to Pre-K for the 2012-2013 biennium. In 2013, the 83rd Legislature failed to fully restore the
funding, choosing the spend only $30M on the Pre-K Early Start Program. Between 64% and 68% of lowincome Texas children are not enrolled in Pre-K.xii
In 2015, the Legislature again opted against restoring the cuts to Pre-k. Instead of expanding eligibility
for Pre-k or moving towards full day Pre-k, the Legislature instead allocated $59 million per year to
improve the quality of Pre-k at a limited number of districts.
HB 4, the legislation that improved targeted Pre-K programs, was a good start but falls well short of
where the state needs to be. Texas must expand eligibility to all 4-year-olds and require
full-day prekindergarten.
Private School Vouchers
In 2015, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick launched a renewed push to redirect public tax dollars to private
institutions through various forms of a private school voucher program. These efforts failed to pass the
House, but the Lt. Governor has directed the Senate to study the issue during the interim in anticipation
of pushing voucher legislation again during the next legislative session.
Private-school voucher legislation would authorize the use of taxpayer dollars to send children to private
and religious schools. Tuition tax credits accomplish the same goal by giving corporations tax relief in
return for their funding of private-school scholarships. Both proposals would undermine the ability of
public schools to provide for a quality education for all children in Texas. Both would drain a publicPolitical ad Paid for by Back to Basics PAC, PO Box 446, Austin, Tx 78767

school funding system ranked among the lowest in the country and transfer taxpayer dollars from
under-funded public schools to unaccountable private schools, which do not serve all comers as public
schools must do.
Texas cannot afford to take tax dollars from public schools to pay for a school voucher program to allow
a select few to attend private schools. In previous legislative sessions, legislators have voted in the
House to prohibit public dollars meant for public schools to be redirected to private schools without any
Teacher Pay
Texas lags the national average in teacher salaries by $8,273 according to the National Education
Associationxiii. And, the average teacher salary in Texas has decreased by $528 a year since 2010-11,
partly because experienced teachers (some through budget-induced early retirements) have left the
profession and been replaced by new teachers. That change has been coupled with salary freezes in
many districts and minimal increases in othersxiv.
The Texas State Teachers Association surveys its members periodically to ask them about compensation,
career expenditures, and supplemental incomesxv:
The average salary of teachers participating in the latest survey was $50,967 a year, and their
average classroom experience was 16.9 years. Some 64 percent were the major breadwinners in
their households. Overall, the average teacher salary in Texas, based on data for the 2012-13
school year, was $48,110. That was 38th among the states and the District of Columbia and was
$8,273 below the national average, according to the National Education Association.
The survey respondents also reported:
-Spending an average of $697 a year from their own pockets on school supplies, an increase of
more than $130 from three years ago.
-Spending an average of $408 each month on health insurance, an increase of almost $200 from
-Working an average 18 hours a week outside the classroom on school related work in addition
to their moonlighting jobs
The online survey of 306 teachers was conducted last spring by Dr. Robert Maninger, Dr. Sam
Sullivan and Dr. Daphne Johnson of Sam Houston State University. Some 80 percent of the
participants were women, 48 percent had graduate degrees and they represented all grade
levels and urban, suburban and rural school districts.
In large part because of lagging pay rates, districts routinely assign educators outside their field,
covering subjects they are not properly prepared to teach. In 2010, 31 percent of teachers in high
poverty schools were assigned out-of-field courses were not fully certified to teach.xvi Texas
schools that have greater than 97.5 percent minority students had teachers who performed very
low on the Teacher Quality Index (TQI) rating compared to low-minority schools. xvii Of teachers in
high schools with a low TQI rating, less than 18 percent graduated from high-performing college
programs. xviii

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How to read votes:

[Legislative Session Number][R=Regular Session, (1) = 1st Called Special Session][Bill Number][Record Vote
Number][Journal Page Number]
For example: (84R HB 1 RV#1663 HJ 5222) mean 84th Legislature Regular Session (2015), House Bill 1,
Record Vote #1663, House Journal page number 5222.
Journals can be accessed from the Texas Legislative Reference Library:
Legislation can be accessed from the Texas Legislative Council:

Texas Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal Size-up 2014-15 Biennium. (February 2014). Online. Available at:
Texas Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal Size-up 2014-15 Biennium. (February 2014). Online. Available at: Page 250.
iii Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, K-12 Education Funding and Quality. Online. Available at: Accessed on February 4, 2015.

Achievement Gap

Commonwealth Foundation. SAT Scores by State, 2014. (December 2014). Online. Available at: Accessed February 3, 2015.
v Corporation for Enterprise Development. Assets and Opportunity Scorecard: Education: High School Degree. (2013). Online. Available at: Accessed February 4, 2015.
vi Legislative Budget Board. Texas Fact Book, 2014. Online. Accessed
at: Accessed February 11, 2015.
CPPP 2015 Legislative Budget Wrap-Up, May 2015



TSTA released the document How Texas Fares in New State Education Funding Rankings, which shows average
salaries in the US at $56,383 and in Texas at $48,110

Fuller, Ed. The Association of Professional Educators, Study on the distribution of teacher quality in Texas schools, 2010. Online. Available at: Page 34. Accessed on February 6, 2015.
xvii Id. Page 37. Table 22.
Id. Page 26.

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