OPED: Biedermann Weighs In On School Finance

June 17, 2017

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(6/17/17) — While I am not a career politi­cian, it is my hon­or to rep­re­sent this amaz­ing dis­trict.  In just a few short months we have assem­bled dozens of cit­i­zen advi­so­ry coun­cils rep­re­sent­ing many issues that are rel­e­vant to our com­mu­ni­ty. Edu­cat­ing our chil­dren and sup­port­ing our teach­ers is at the top of my agen­da. This is why I was dis­mayed to hear about a recent meet­ing, of which I was not noti­fied, regard­ing the future of Stonewall Ele­men­tary School and the bud­get deficits at FISD.

Stonewall Ele­men­tary has pro­vid­ed an excel­lent edu­ca­tion for many years, and even some Fred­er­icks­burg res­i­dents send their chil­dren there. If a qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for our chil­dren is the top pri­or­i­ty of FISD then why would they spread the fear of clos­ing it? The qual­i­ty of edu­ca­tion should be put above all oth­er activ­i­ties a school offers, espe­cial­ly with tight bud­get constraints. 

The ques­tion is: why can’t Texas fix pub­lic school finance?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly there has been lit­tle appetite to fix the bro­ken School Finance Sys­tem for many years; on all sides. The Texas Sen­ate  wants school choice includ­ed in any school fund­ing bill (SB 3) and the lead­er­ship in the Texas House that is so against school choice that they vot­ed against an increase in fund­ing pub­lic education. 

Then you have Chap­ter 41 schools, or “Robin Hood” schools, that require prop­er­ty-rich school dis­tricts like FISD to send por­tions of their prop­er­ty tax rev­enue to the state, which is then redis­trib­uted to prop­er­ty-poor dis­tricts. This start­ed in 1993 in an effort to pro­vide equal fund­ing to all pub­lic schools.  Although noble in the­o­ry, Robin Hood has failed in prac­tice. There have been many law­suits over the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of Robin Hood, includ­ing one in 2016 with the court uphold­ing the prac­tice and throw­ing it back to the state leg­is­la­tors to fix.

On the first day of this ses­sion I sup­port­ed a bill to repeal Robin Hood but the House lead­er­ship nev­er gave it a hear­ing. Why? Prop­er­ty-poor dis­tricts and their State  Rep­re­sen­ta­tives refuse to give up the mon­ey they are receiv­ing from the prop­er­ty-rich dis­tricts. Instead, they want more. This is the root cause of the grow­ing inequal­i­ty where many prop­er­ty-poor dis­tricts are receiv­ing up to $3,000 more per stu­dent per year than prop­er­ty-rich dis­tricts, like ours.

Anoth­er Austin secret: The pub­lic school lob­by and asso­ci­a­tions that rep­re­sent the school dis­tricts in Texas are one of the most pow­er­ful spe­cial inter­ests at your State Capi­tol. Since there are 4 times as many prop­er­ty-poor dis­tricts in Texas, they get the most atten­tion and have lit­tle incen­tive to end or reform Robin Hood.  Not sur­pris­ing, these same groups helped kill bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion, HB 3759, filed by my office that would have giv­en relief for local school dis­tricts from unnec­es­sary costs and expenses.

The Texas Edu­ca­tion Agency shows $61 bil­lion was spent on pub­lic schools in 2014–2015 result­ing in $12,761 spent per stu­dent, though FISD spends about $8,600.  Giv­en that a class size of 20 stu­dents receives rough­ly $255,000, only 20% goes to fund the aver­age teacher salary of $50,715.  Addi­tion­al­ly, for fis­cal years 1992–2014, non-teacher staff has increased by 174% while stu­dent enroll­ment increased by only 49%.  The ques­tion is, are we spend­ing our edu­ca­tion dol­lars wise­ly and effi­cient­ly?  Are our pri­or­i­ties in order? Shouldn’t more mon­ey be direct­ed to the class­room to edu­cate our children? 

While we may dif­fer at times we can all agree that com­mu­ni­ca­tion, on every lev­el, is key to suc­cess. Thank­ful­ly the Teacher Engage­ment Sur­vey Amend­ment passed on HB 22 and has been signed into law by Gov­er­nor Abbott. This amend­ment, which I authored, will give our teach­ers who are on the front lines of edu­cat­ing our stu­dents every sin­gle day a voice on how to fix our bro­ken edu­ca­tion sys­tem and send a strong mes­sage to the Texas leg­is­la­ture and spe­cial inter­est groups that we need to fix this sys­tem for our chil­dren and the future of our state. 

As your elect­ed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive I am work­ing to rep­re­sent all of my con­stituents in every cor­ner of this dis­trict. More fund­ing is not always the answer. We need to be more cre­ative local­ly with the edu­ca­tion fund­ing we have with­out expect­ing more from our over­taxed work­ers, our seniors and our small busi­ness own­ers. Let’s start work­ing togeth­er.  My door has always been open and always will be!

 

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kyle Biedermann

Dis­trict Office 616 W. Main St. FBG

830–990-0185

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