Houston, TX - Making a bold statement about the current state of public school finance in Texas, at their August Regular Board Meeting, Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) Trustees voted unanimously to not authorize Superintendent of Schools, Jennifer Blaine, to make the state’s 2023-24 recapture payment.
Despite having the largest budget surplus in Texas history, the 88th Legislature was unable to agree on new funding for public schools by the time their session concluded in May. Nearly one-third of the state’s budget surplus, or $8 billion, was the result of recaptured funds from about 160 school districts statewide, including Spring Branch ISD, being reallocated to the state’s general fund.
Lisa Alpe, Board Vice President stated, “Recapture districts are going to have to stand up on behalf of our students. We are severely underfunded. In SBISD we can’t afford to send millions of dollars to the state without decimating our system.”
“It’s time to take a stand,” Alpe also noted. “Now is the time to say, ‘Come and take it.’”
SBISD Board President Chris Earnest noted with so much of the state’s surplus coming from recapture, and the additional unfunded safety mandates required under House Bill 3, our elected officials in Austin “refuse to listen and are making a sport of degrading public schools. It seems like a game to get vouchers passed.”
Trustees Minda Caesar and John Perez noted the fight’s not over. Both emphasized the importance for continued advocacy, with a special session forthcoming and continued work with our legislators ongoing.
Perez noted, “Hearing that we are not going to get funded while there is an ‘inflated kingdom’ at the Texas Education Agency and ballooning budgets at the state level is not acceptable with no new funding for public education.”
Earlier in the board meeting, trustees also addressed the significant shortfall in state funding for safety and security during their discussion regarding a Resolution to Declare a Good Cause Exception for House Bill 3 Armed Security Officer Requirement. The resolution, also passed unanimously, relates to House Bill 3, the new public school safety and security legislation that goes into effect on Sept. 1.
While affirming SBISD’s deep commitment to safety and security, the resolution states, “Specifically, the amount the Texas Legislature provided school districts to implement this and other required safety mandates falls far short of the actual dollars required. In Spring Branch ISD, that shortfall is approximately $1.5 million dollars.”
Trustee Alpe encouraged the community to read the full resolution. With a $30 billion excess surplus, parents and concerned citizens wanted the legislature to address safety. Alpe stated that legislators promised safety and security would be a funded mandate. However, this was not the case. She noted, “Previously, funding was $9.72 per child. It was increased by only 28 cents to $10 per child and $15,000 per campus.”
“This does not adequately fund SBISD’s safety and security needs, though we will do our best to keep our kids safe,” Alpe also stated.
During a budget discussion later in the evening, SBISD Associate Superintendent for Finance Christine Porter reviewed the impact of Senate Bill 2, the state’s sweeping property tax reform bill that goes to voters for approval in November.
Porter noted there will be a decrease in our recapture payment due to a decrease in property tax revenues. However, apart from a formula increase in the Golden Penny yield and about $700,000 in funding under House Bill 3, property tax relief is a great benefit for our taxpayers but affords no new money to SBISD.
Trustee Anderson invited our elected officials to join Trustees at the board table for discussions about the significant and very difficult decisions that will need to be made for the 2024-2025 school year if no new funding is provided by the state.
The SBISD Board of Trustees Workshop Meeting will be held on Sept. 11, 2023, at 6 p.m. in the Wayne F. Schaper, Sr. Leadership Center, 955 Campbell Road, Houston, TX 77024.