The objective of the Public Education & School Finance Task Force is to improve public education outcomes, efficiency, and accessibility in the state of Texas. Current schools must be improved, new schools must be innovative, and choice among those schools for all Texas children must be promoted.
The current state of public education in Texas is one in which too much money is spent on few results. Public education is well-established as the state’s top spending priority, accounting for 42 percent of the 2012-13 state general revenue budget. However, even as the state has consistently increased the amount of money it puts into the public education system, outcomes have remained static. Indeed, Texas education spending, per pupil, has nearly doubled since 1997, while SAT scores have remained unchanged.
It is time for Texas to show its commitment to education in ways other than increased spending. The Public Education & School Finance Task Force will investigate different forms of school choice, including vouchers, but will place an emphasis on tax credit programs. It will also research and propose ways to improve on Texas’s existing programs such as the Charter School Program and the Virtual School Network.
Additionally, too many homeowners spend a fortune funding a school system that they do not use. These homeowners do not have children, are empty nesters, send their children to private school, or educate their children at home. In all of these instances, public schools are over-collecting, as these taxpayers are not putting a strain on the school system. One option is to offer a 25% property tax deduction against local Maintenance and Operations property taxes to homeowners who do not currently have children in public school. The Task Force will explore this proposal and others.
The 2012-13 State Taxation and Revenue Task Force reviewed the state’s current tax structure, including the school district property tax, and ultimately recommended a shift from property taxes to consumption taxes to fund public schools. The 2013-14 Public Education & School Finance Task Force will conduct further research into methods of transitioning away from funding public education with property taxes, which produces highly inequitable taxation and funding for schools.