AUSTIN, TEXAS (Jan. 25, 2017) – For two decades, Texas’ fastest growing school districts have urged state leaders to address state funding to meet the facilities needs of Texas public schools and reduce the local debt burden on their communities. And, as the 85th Legislature begins its work in Austin, the Fast Growth School Coalition (FGSC) renews its efforts, as well.
Today, FGSC released their legislative priorities and underscored the increasing disparity between state funding and local taxpayers’ support for Texas public schools.
The fastest growing school districts in Texas over the past five-year period educate an overwhelmingly high percentage of the new student enrollment growth,” said Guy Sconzo, Executive Director of FGSC.
“Seventy-nine percent of the new students entering Texas schools these past five years reside in just 75 school districts. Most of these fast growth districts receive no state funding for facilities, placing an increased burden on local taxpayers to build classroom space and facilities to accommodate the influx of new students,” Sconzo added.
The State of Texas offers three key school facility programs to offset some of the costs of new infrastructure: Existing Debt Allotment (EDA), Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) and New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA).
“Unfortunately, in the twenty years since the original fast growth legislation was crafted, the state has not made significant updates to these funding mechanisms,” said Randy Reid, Chairman of FGSC and Superintendent of Keller ISD. “The state’s inability to address these funding issues places a disproportionate burden on local taxpayers to make up the gap.”
In 2000-2001, the state covered 44.6 percent of total debt service for public schools. Today, the state only covers 7.4 percent, due to local value growth. The result is higher taxes at the local level.
“And, the problem is only getting worse,” said Sconzo. “Over the next biennium, the state’s support for facilities funding will be reduced by 22 percent – roughly $309 million – due to local property tax value growth. It’s an even starker reality for fast growth school districts where state support for facilities has dwindled to zero in recent years.”
Only 27 of the 75 fast-growth school districts receive some state funding through the EDA or IFA programs.
FGSC leaders called on state lawmakers to address public schools and their local taxpayers first and not be distracted by buzz phrases and the perennial call for competition, choice and vouchers and disrupting the “status quo” of Texas’ public education system.
“The status quo is absolutely unacceptable and untenable for local taxpayers and the fast growth school districts where the state’s largest pockets of economic investment and job creation are found,” said Sconzo. “The State is not adhering to its constitutional responsibility on public education and that starts with addressing funding at the state level for public schools. It’s time to give our existing public education system a fighting chance to deliver and build upon the high-quality education Texans expect, deserve and experience in the state’s fastest growing districts.”
In the final quarter of 2016, FGSC members visited with local lawmakers regarding the most pressing issues in their communities related to rapid student population growth. In dialogue with these leaders and discussions among local districts, the FGSC 20th Year Priorities for the 85th Legislature emerged:
- Increase the awards under the New IFA program for campus start-up costs from $250 to $1,000 per ADA.
- Increase the $35/ADA Yield for both Existing Debt Allotment (EDA) and Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA).
- Provide voters and school boards the flexibility necessary to effectively manage fast-growth districts’ tax rates.
- Improve reporting requirements for new charter school campuses.
- Maintain the one-year lag in the use of state property values under any new school finance plan.
Additional background on these proposals, as well as perspective on the unique challenges facing fast growth school districts can be found online at www.fastgrowthtexas.org.
# # #
The Fast Growth School Coalition (FGSC) is a grassroots organization of school districts interested in finding legislative solutions that help districts cope with the financial and structural demands of their rapidly expanding populations. Learn more online at www.fastgrowthtexas.org or follow on Twitter, @FastGrowthTexas.
Media contact: Jennifer Harris, 512-773-7168 or jharris (at) jwhcommunications (dot) com.