On Tuesday, the EISD Board of Trustees voted to join the Taxpayer and Student Fairness Association. This association is being brought together by the Equity Center. The Equity Center is an organization of school districts that have been historically under-funded. The association will be filing a suit against the current financial funding system in the state.
This lawsuit is not all about the funding cuts that were enacted during this last legislative session. The lawsuit is about equity in school funding. Over the last several years, we have talked several times about “target revenue” and how target revenue is used in the finance formulas. If you remember, EISD has one of the lowest target revenues for a district its size in the state. Target revenue has been the cornerstone of school finance for several years now. While target revenue would have been a great bridge to a complete overhaul of the school finance system, it was never intended to be the long term solution to the school finance situation. Unfortunately, target revenue is still used as the backbone of our finance system today.
While target revenue has many shortcomings, the worst is that it puts a different monetary value on students in each district. Basically, school districts receive funding based on their target revenue multiplied by the weighted average daily attendance (WADA): the greater the target revenue, the more state funding. Districts with greater target revenues were automatically at an advantage over districts with smaller target revenues. (The overall state funding system is much more complex than this. However, this simple calculation would give a rough estimate that is much easier to understand.)
So, in order for school districts with lower target revenues to offset the funding advantage the districts with higher target revenues had, many of the lower target revenue districts resorted to tax ratification elections (TRE) that enabled their districts to assess an M & O rate of $1.17. EISD is currently at $1.04. This is the maximum tax rate that a district can have without a TRE. However, with some districts, even a $1.17 M & O rate is not enough to bring their funding levels up to neighboring districts with a greater target revenue. I do not believe that it is fair to ask the taxpayers of our district to provide funding for EISD that is being provided by the state in other districts.
Attached to this post is a chart of districts in our area and their target revenues. As you can see, EISD has the lowest target revenue of any district listed. I do not think that we have an equitable school finance system when we are being told that our students are worthy of less state aid than other students in neighboring districts.
It is the hope of EISD and other districts around the state that the litigation filed with the state will bring to light funding issues that are inherently inequitable. It is also the hope of these districts that it will be demonstrated that additional burdens to local taxpayers is not going to solve the issue of inequity. I will be providing you updates throughout this process. If you ever have questions regarding this litigation, or anything else regarding EISD, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.