Among them is Karnes City ISD just to our north.
Wayne Block, business manager in Karnes ISD, said that district should be in the clear this year despite its new classification.
“This year, even though we are Chapter 41, we don’t foresee actually sending money back to the state,” he said. He does expect to receive less money from the state though.
Next year, thanks to Eagle Ford drilling, things will be quite different.
He estimates the district will have to send back $20 million. Karnes City ISD’s budget is only $10 million.
“The frustrating part is that the target revenue system will keep us receiving about $4,800 per student target revenue, which is the bottom 14 percent of the state,” he said.
But for districts like Pawnee, the only school in this county classified as a Chapter 41 district, this is nothing new, although the numbers are considerably smaller.
Elaine Richardson, Pawnee superintendent, said that the district has been classified as a Chapter 41 district for about the past 10 years.
“Some schools are on it because they have real estate wealth, and then there is also mineral wealth, and that is why we are on it,” she said.
This past year, she said, the district paid the state half a million dollars.
Richardson said losing that much money hurts, especially when the district budget is only $2 million.
Block said, “Almost everybody agrees that schools are not funded on an equal basis.”
That is the frustrating part for school administrators too.
And it’s cases like this that are spurring groups to fight the Robin Hood system.
“The fact that more districts qualify for this status than ever before reinforces the fact that our method of funding public education is broken. Texas has just over 1,000 school districts and having close to 400 of them considered property wealthy shows that there is not enough money in the system overall,” said Christy Rome, executive director of the Texas School Coalition.
“The State has lowered the standard of wealth, and rather than bringing districts up and investing in education, more districts are seeing their level of funding being brought down,” Rome said. “Robin Hood was meant to raise the floor, but now the ceiling is being brought down on the heads of Texas students.”
Richardson said she has mixed emotions about the current program.
“A lot of the other schools that aren’t Chapter 41 struggle because of the property value issue,” she said. “I don’t begrudge them.”
“The system isn’t fair. I don’t know if I have an answer for it.”
The Robin Hood system of school finance began in 1993 and applied to 35 school districts. It took 14 years to reach 164 revenue-contributing districts but only five years to add the next 210 districts.
“Over half of the students in revenue-contributing districts throughout the state are economically disadvantaged,” Rome said, “and now their taxpayers will be asked to send money into Austin. It will come as a shock to many in these communities, but somehow the myth continues that these districts are primarily made up of wealthy students and parents.”
Richardson said that the residents of Pawnee ISD are likewise not wealthy and have the same expenses as the rest of the community.
Their perk is the existence of gas wells in the area and now the Eagle Ford wells and the new gas processing plant under construction.
“When your values go down, it is hard to raise enough money,” she said.
Without a solution to the funding issue, Richardson said the district is awaiting results from pending and proposed lawsuits.
“I guess we will see what happens when they go to court,” she said.
As for the residents, they too must wait out the outcomes.
“What are they going to do?” she said. “It is basically out of their hands.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.