Educators move to retain gains of Robin Hood - Brownsville Herald: Education

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Educators move to retain gains of Robin Hood

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2001 12:00 am

By STEVE TAYLOR

The Brownsville Herald

AUSTIN South Texas educators have set up a committee to fight moves from

wealthy districts in other parts of Texas to eliminate the so-called Robin

Hood system of funding public schools.

School superintendents from across the Rio GRande Valley as well as Laredo say

they have formed the Region 1 Committee on Public School Finance in response

to plans from lawmakers to investigate public school finance.

The first steps in that investigation were made Wednesday when Lt. Gov. Bill

Ratliff and House Speaker Pete Laney announced the formation and composition

of an 18-strong select committee charged with making funding recommendations

to the 78th Legislature in 2003.

State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, is the only Rio Grande Valley

representative on the committee.

The court battles of the 1980s were the turning point in winning a fairer

distribution of funding for poor wealth districts like ours and we are not

going to give up these gains lightly, said Sylvia Hatton, executive director

of the Region 1 Education Service Center.

We know what works for migrant students, for students who do not speak

English, but it is very expensive. Without help our schools lack the resources

for providing a quality education. We are not going to ignore the needs of

this community. We are not going to lose out.

The court battles Hatton refers to are the Edgwood vs.Kirby and Edgwood vs.

Meno cases brought by poor-wealth districts against the state of Texas in the

1980s. Ultimate victory by the poor-wealth districts ushered in the so-called

Robin Hood system of school finance, whereby wealthy school districts

subsidize poorer ones.

But critics argue that Texas relies too heavily on local property taxes to

fund public schools and some estimates suggest that 40 percent of the states

school districts will be at the legal local tax rate limit within the next two

years.

Increased reliance on property taxes brought court challenges by wealthy

school districts earlier this year.

Ratliff, who authored the Robin Hood legislation, said the select committee

would conduct a comprehensive review of the public school finance system,

consider equity issues in the current system, and fully examine the current

and potential revenue sources.

Once again, the time has come to examine the way Texas pays for public

education and look at alternative methods that will meet constitutional

muster, said Ratliff. The dynamics of state funding and local property taxes

are changing. We must ask ourselves if there is a better way to pay for our

schools.

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