Since the Robin Hood plan was enacted in 1993, Texas property-wealthy school districts have shared their property tax revenue with poorer districts in an effort to achieve equitable school financing for every district in the state.
In addition to the recapture system that allows the state to distribute tax revenue among all districts, the law set a basic amount of funding per student which currently sits at $6,160.
In PISD’s case, the school district paid $2.4 billion in recapture payments to the state, the second highest paying district, only behind Austin ISD. According to KERA, for Plano ISD the state’s basic allotment is insufficient to fund the district’s needs which resulted in a budget deficit that’s been running for four years.
According to Texas House Representative Mihaela Plesa, there are a couple of reasons for this.
For one, while property value in wealthy districts like Plano went up in recent years, the funds schools receive from the state remained stagnant in the same period. On the other hand, school districts’ budgets are not safe from inflation. Plano ISD chief financial officer, Johnny Hill told KERA that the district gave teachers a 4% raise in 2022, but the inflation rate at the time doubled that amount.
“Everybody's trying to chase each other because there's a limited amount of quality staff here in teachers and support staff,” he said.
While House Bill 3 decreased the amount of money recaptured by the state in 2019, from $3.6 billion to $2 billion, funding for schools was not adjusted to inflation. Based on data from the consumer price index by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2019 the inflation rate has gone up 16.44%.
“Since that bill passed, with the exception of federal funds meant to provide for COVID relief and address learning loss, funding for schools has remained stagnant,” Plesa told KERA.
According to Hill, for the past four years, Plano ISD was able to manage without this adjustment by using the district’s robust savings account, but this money is running out, and adjusting for inflation would add $30 million to the district budget, eliminating the deficit.
“If nothing changes, and we continue to run on a deficit, we’re actually eating into our monies that we need to support our own operations in about three years,” Hill said.
Plesa and Representative Vikki Goodwin from Austin are joint authors of a bill that hopes to mend this issue and take the inflation rate into account for school funding.
Local Profile reached out to Plano ISD for comment. This story will be updated pending response.