'We have a problem': Public schools in Texas face funding shortfalls

Tom Abrahams Image
Tuesday, May 7, 2024
Texas public schools face funding shortfalls
HISD might be the most talked about school district facing financial issues, but it's one of many. Across the state, big and small districts don't have enough money to do the job.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas schools are among the lowest funded in the nation, and in the last legislative session, that did not change.

Despite a record surplus, the per-student funding schools receive, the basic allotment, remained flat at $6,160, which has stayed the same since 2019.

"Since that time, we've had about a 22% to 23% inflation rate, and this has put an enormous amount of pressure on public schools throughout the state of Texas," Kevin Brown, the director of the Texas Association of School Administrators, said.

That impacts districts all over the state.

ABC13 checked with local districts and found that in addition to HISD, Spring, Spring Branch, Katy, Tomball, and Conroe have projected budget shortfalls as they work toward finalizing their budgets for next year.

Fort Bend and Klein ISD told Eyewitness News that they don't expect any shortfall; however, they are exceptions to the rule.

"Schools are now forced to make huge budget cuts because they haven't had an increase despite rapidly rising inflation and many other costs associated with running schools have increased," Heather Sheffield, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Education Professionals, said.

Texas school districts are among the lowest funded in the United States, and in the last legislative session, that did not change.

ABC13 reached out to Gov. Greg Abbott's office to ask about the complaints regarding underfunding.

The governor's office has yet to respond to our request for comment.

In October 2023, a press conference from the third legislative special session was held. House Bill 177 would have given teachers a $15,000 raise and increased that basic allotment.

"For every child in Texas, the fully Fund Our Future Act increases that amount by $2,787," State Representative Gina Hinojosa, a Democrat from Austin, said.

Hinojosa was the author of the bill, which would have increased state funding to the national average but never got a hearing, let alone a vote.

"Frankly, I believe it's a moral and ethical lapse that our legislature, in the midst of having the largest budget surplus in history, did almost nothing to address our schools," Brown said.

Tomball ISD Superintendent Martha Salazar Zamora is the state's Superintendent of the Year.

"I think it's important that our governor supports public education, and all of the elected officials support us in a way that we will need to continue to educate students to the level that we want to and have in the past," Zamora told ABC13.

She wrote a deficit budget for the first time last year and said she's doing it again this year.

Zamora fears it could get worse without the legislature better funding public schools.

"Are they giving us money? Yes. Are they giving us all that we need? No. It's a basic, simple answer," she said.

A recent survey from the Texas Association of School Business Officials included responses from 313 districts of all sizes.

According to the survey, 80% said budgets and resources are major issues. More than half have a budget deficit.

More than four in 10 expect significant spending cuts next year. Zamora said it can't continue.

"(There are) Various continual factors that worry anyone that's in public education and should really worry the general public that I think is starting to realize something for a while. We have a problem," she said.

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