orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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December 3, 2012

Expert shows school district funding disparities

(Continued)

AUSTIN, Texas —

The state caps tax rates at $1.17, and Cortez said many of the poorest districts now cannot get to $7,000 in funding per student without exceeding that limit.

Districts in rich and poor parts of Texas are largely on the same side of the case. The state's funding system relies heavily on a "Robin Hood" recapture scheme where districts with high property values or abundant tax revenue from oil or natural gas resources turn over part of the money they raise for distribution to poorer districts.

Many "property wealthy" districts say that while they are in better shape than their poorer counterparts, the system still starves them of funding since local voters who might otherwise support property tax increases to bolster funding for their schools refuse to do so — knowing that most of the money would be sent somewhere else.

Cortez also studied funding differences between those districts that turn money back over to the state as part of the Robin Hood system, and those that receive money as part of it. He found an $875 average per-student funding difference, and a 6-cent difference in tax effort.

District Judge John Dietz noted that difference was smaller than funding discrepancies during the 1984 lawsuit, but Cortez said that in a classroom of 20 students, the gap still amounted to $18,000.

Cortez also said that while the gap is smaller than in the past, student demographics have changed substantially since the early 1980s while academic accountability standards have also increased.

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