Houston area school districts voice school finance concerns

May 18, 2019 GMT

Spring Branch Independent School District and other Houston area district leaders met Friday, May 17, to encourage Texas lawmakers to maintain the present formula for how school funding is calculated each year.

The Texas legislature is in session through Memorial Day, and a conference committee is considering two versions of House Bill 3. The House version would use the current formula for school funding, the district’s prior year property values divided by the prior year’s student attendance. But the Senate version would begin using the current year property values. According to the Texas School Coalition, the change could save the state up to $1.8 but would leave educators with less to work with.


At a press conference held at the Spring Branch ISD administration building, representatives from districts including Alief, Brazosport, Galveston and Houston Independent School Districts gathered to say they need to have a better understanding of how much funding they will receive each year and therefore want the funding to be based on the prior year’s values.

“I could imagine as a superintendent at the end of the year realizing that I actually had much more money to spend and I could imagine what I could have done as a superintendent, the investments that I could have made in children,” said Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Scott Muri. “But I wouldn’t find out about those investments until the very end of the year.”

He said using the current year’s property values could leave his district with a lot of uncertainty and money left on the table.

“In our system, that could have potentially been $7 million that we could have invested in more staff members for our students, we could have invested in enriching programming opportunities for kids and investing in resources for students and additional personnel for our kids,” Muri said.

Galveston ISD Superintendent Kelli Moulton emphasized the need for districts to have local control of how they use the money and said community members, parents and students count on school districts’ leadership to make wise financial decisions.

“We have a responsibility to our communities to be able to be accountable to them. Who knows better how to spend the money in the community than those of the community? We’re trusted in that and we believe in that and want to be able to make that happen for our communities.”

Spring Branch ISD Trustee Minda Caesar said she is proud of how the district performs financially and mentioned that it always gets high financial ratings. However, she shared that even the “extremely fiscally conservative” district could be facing a deficit of $24 million based on today’s school finance system. Caesar added that each year many Texans protest their property taxes, which would only add uncertainty around funding if the dollars were based on the current year.


“We have lots of different district priorities, and so we’re going to have to play a little bit of a guessing game on how much money we have to address those priorities if they switch to current year balance,” Caesar said.

Wrapping up, Muri said a number of diverse districts, both small and large, affluent and less affluent, were stepping up at the event to show that they hope the Texas legislature will make a good decision for the students and communities they represent.

“We are sitting in this room together because we are in complete agreement on this issue and use of prior year values as we make smart financial decisions on behalf of our students.”