Austin ISD pushing for new funding legislation

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Association of Texas Professional Educators expects the judge in the school financing trial to issue his ‘Phase 2′ ruling on Friday. Last year, the first ruling determined the Texas school finance system is broken.

That message of inequality echoed by Austin ISD leaders Tuesday.

Your property taxes are the biggest funding source for Austin ISD. But while you’re watching those taxes rise each year, school district leaders say it’s not benefiting local schools. District leaders are asking lawmakers to take action.

By most measures, Austin is a wealthy city. But, step inside the district’s schools, and officials say you’ll see otherwise.

“In AISD, 62 percent of our students are what the state considers of poverty–who are economically disadvantaged or are on free and reduced price lunch,” said AISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz.

State lawmakers and others teamed up with school leaders Tuesday. They want the Texas Legislature to reduce the projected $175 million the state will take from local school property taxes this year. That’s local money AISD will never see.

“Instead, much of the additional tax collections pass through the district, to the state, as part of the recapture law,” said AISD Board of Trustees President Vincent Torres.

The law, from 2002, is intended to help out poorer districts throughout the state.

“We don’t want to cut what kids get in other places in the state, but we want to make sure we’re supporting the kids that are the neediest here, and that’s just a real tricky balance we have,” said AISD Employees Union President Ken Zarifis.

Texas State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) calls the method unsustainable and wants reform at the top.

“Once we increase the basic amount that the state provides for the foundational part of our school program, it decreases the recapture that’s required,” said Howard. She and other lawmakers said they are committed to getting the legislation rewritten.

Since 2002, AISD taxpayers have sent $1.66 billion to the state treasury. This is not earmarked to education, but instead to general revenue.

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