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May 12, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Senate Hears Testimony on School Equity

One of the central issues behind the school finance debate is what to do about the system of recapture that transfers funds from property-rich districts to property-poor districts. This system, generally known as "Robin Hood", because it "robs" from the rich to give to the poor, has supporters and detractors alike. Supporters say this program allows poor schools to "close the gap" and use the extra money to improve educational services and facilities. Detractors say "Robin Hood" takes discretionary funds that richer schools could use to enhance educational programs or offer unique opportunities to their students. Both sides agree that all children, rich or poor, deserve equal access to a good education, but disagree on how to accomplish this. Members of both camps testified before the Committee of the Whole Senate today, May 12.

Clayton Downing, Executive Director of the Texas School Coalition, and Wayne Pierce, Executive Director of the Equity Center, cautioned the Senate that if recapture continues, then the state must fund discretionary dollars for schools to use. Different schools in different areas may have special needs that other districts do not. Pierce and Downing say that schools should have access to discretionary funds to meet the unique needs that each district has. Pierce added that all districts, rich or poor, should have equal access to state-set-aside discretionary funds.

Judge Scott McCown, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, testified that eliminating the system of recapture would widen the gap between rich and poor students. He said that recapture money is critical for even the basic operating costs of some poorer schools. Any new education finance system, said McCown, must seek to meet the needs of an expanding middle class, rather than simply preserving the standards of a relatively small upper class.

The Senate will meet Thursday, May 13, at 10 a.m., and again resolve into a Committee of the Whole.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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