The school finance end run: school foundations

Last night, at back-to-school night for our son’s elementary school, we got to see his classroom, meet other parents, and spend time with his teachers. We also got the shake down: a pitch from the PTO president and raffle co-chairs, get-out-the-vote pep talk from  Superintendent Kevin Brown regarding the September 15 tax ratification election (TRE), and a video from the Alamo Heights School Foundation featuring board president Anne Krause asking for donations.

In Alamo Heights, education supporters are unhappy about sending local property tax money back to the state. The district’s flyer and slides take great pains to stress that funds raised (by the increase in the M&O property tax rate from $1.04 to $1.06) are not subject to recapture by the state. The school foundation is another way to keep money in the district.

In Local Community News, Alamo Heights parent Marnie Ross commented:

“Although the idea of redistribution of wealth to support all of our children’s educations is a great one, the reality is that is not what happens,” Ross says. “The state of Texas cannot actually account for monies taken from the ‘rich’ districts to ensure they are going to the ‘needy’ districts. We felt this was our way to support our district and ensure that our monies actually stay here and support our children.”

“Taking Back Education”, Bonny Osterhage, Local Community News (San Antonio), September 2012. I’m not sure exactly what she means, but Superintendent Brown made similar comment last night: apparently the district used to write checks directly to needy districts, but now the recaptured money goes back to the state. I’m looking forward to learning more about how school finance works by following the school finance lawsuits that will go to trial next month.

The Alamo Heights School Foundation is not the only one in town. Other examples include the San Antonio ISD Foundation, the Northside Education Foundation, the Harlandale Education Foundation, and the Friends of Bonham. According to Local Community News, State Representative Mike Villarreal founded Friends of Bonham to support Bonham Academy, an in-district charter school in San Antonio ISD. “He recognized a strong desire from the neighborhood and those who cared about urban public education to invest in this success story, but there was no vehicle,” says Villarreal’s wife, Jeanne Russell, outgoing president of Friends of Bonham and an education advisor to Mayor Julian Castro.

Update: Alamo Heights ISD voters supported the property tax increase. “Alamo Heights, Somerset school tax proposals win handily”, Francisco Vara-Orta, San Antonio Express-News, September 16, 2012.

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