Texas requires wealthier school districts to share that largesse with less wealthy ones.
Aransas County Independent School District is considered one of those wealthier districts. But, they’re asking the state to give them a break while they try to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey.
In Texas, school districts can be under Chapter 41 or Chapter 42 schools. Under Chapter 41, 215 school districts have to pay tax revenues based on the property wealth value of the district. Those taxes are sent to the state then dispersed among the less wealthy districts, statewide. It’s known as the Robin Hood law. It’s meant to level the playing field for all Texas students, regardless of tax bracket.
Christy Rome, executive director of the Texas School Coalition, says the law is aimed to balance rich and poor districts.
“Just like the character Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor, whereas that’s the concept that was established … of taking money from districts that have higher property wealth and then give it to school districts that have less.”
But Rome says that property wealth is different from personal wealth.
She says although the property wealth of the school district may be high, the students could have a lower personal wealth. Rome also mentions that sometimes schools on the Texas coast have a higher property value.
Although, a good formula for those less wealthy districts, schools districts like Aransas County ISD say they don’t have the funds to constantly give back to the state.
ACISD Board of Trustees president Jack Wright feels it’s time for a change.
“The legislature needs to change the way schools are funded, period,” Wright said.
This year, ACISD will be writing a check for $7 million to give back to the state. District officials claim that money is needed for their students and teachers, who are struggling to recover from Harvey.
“In this case, it’s almost as though we’re being kicked while we’re down.” Wright said. “We’ve lost students, we’ve lost personnel, we’re having to increase payments to the state. While our kids are homeless, does that make sense?”
Many students are still homeless, like ACISD student body president McCauley Duck who is “currently living in a trailer in the driveway of my home,” he said.
Although Duck has somewhat adjusted to his life in a trailer, the senior knows it would be easier if his school was in better shape.
“It’s a year post-Harvey, or a year plus, post-Harvey and we still have trash cans in the lunch room where there’s still water falling from the ceiling,” he said.
Although plenty of work has been done to all ACISD campuses, the school board wants to take a break paying the Robin Hood payment while they try to rebuild throughout the town.
Because of the payments every year, ACISD has had to cut school programs within the high school. Wright says that teachers get paid about $5,000 less than teachers in surrounding areas and students are still displaced or homeless.
ACISD says they’re pushing lawmakers for a change, but in order to make changes, there would have to be a change in the law.
ACISD is not the only district to ask for a break. Districts statewide have been asking for years. Some districts have tried to not pay the requirement, but in turn have had (undisclosed) consequences.