Trinity I.S.D. Superintendent makes plea regarding state funding

By Trinity I.S.D. Superintendent Dr. John Kaufman

As the 85th Texas Legislative session is underway, school districts across the state are wondering if equality in state funding will transpire from this session.   For over 30 years, state legislators have penalized school districts with less than 1,600 students and less than 300 square miles by arbitrarily funding the cost per student at a much lower rate than those over 300 square miles.  

The legislator’s philosophy for doing this was twofold: first, they understood that the cost per student increased as the number of students in a district decreased.  Many felt that by instituting a smaller multiplier to the smaller area districts they would be more inclined to consider consolidating with a neighboring district rather than face this funding shortfall.  

Secondly, some legislators felt that if districts were less than 300 square miles, they were “small by choice” and if they couldn’t survive at that lower funding level they could always consolidate with a neighboring district.  Both assumptions were incorrect; in fact, many small school districts across the state are the center of the community and an essential component of the community’s heritage. Consolidation with a neighboring district would not be an option.  

To further illustrate the injustice imposed on small school districts with less than 300 square miles, if a school district had 600 students and was greater than 300 square miles in area, the state would recognize this district as a higher formula funding district and would use a calculation of .0004 as a funding mechanism, but if a neighboring district had the same amount of students but was 299 square miles in area, they would be funded at a lower funding mechanism of .00025.  By using this thinking, the smaller sized school district would receive 37.5 percent less funding from the state!  

This funding discrepancy puts the smaller district at an even greater disadvantage; teachers are lost to higher paying districts, fewer resources are available to students, and facility maintenance sometimes suffer because of the lack of funding.  A district’s only other option is to offset this funding shortfall by raising taxes; not a viable solution considering the tax burden already placed on citizens! 

In Texas there are 463 school districts that are punished because of their student population and square mileage while 176 districts reap the benefits of a higher funding formula.   Trinity ISD is one of those districts being funded at the small school rate of  .00025.  This is solely based on the square mileage being less than 300 square miles (Trinity ISD has 143 square miles) and the student population.  If Trinity ISD were to be funded at an equalized rate, an additional $715,320 per year would be realized in our budget.  This increased revenue is approximately 14 percent of Trinity ISD’s annual budget!  Imagine how this extra revenue could help the district!

With the 85th Legislative session underway, an opportunity exists to correct this injustice that has plagued small schools for over 30 years.  Texas State Senator Robert Nichols has filed Senate bill 678 and Representative Trent Ashby has filed house bill 1390 that would equalize this funding discrepancy.  Please consider contacting your Texas Senate member and House of Representative member to express your support regarding this matter.   Below are the representatives for Trinity County:

Texas State Senate District 3 - The Honorable Robert Nichols 

P.O. Box 12068

Capitol Station

Austin, TX 78711 

(512) 463-0103 (TEL)

1 (800) 959-8633 (TOLL-FREE)

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Texas State House District 57 – Representative Trent Ashby

P.O. Box 2910

Austin, TX 78768

(512) 463-0508

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