Frequently Asked Questions
Funding for public education comes from three main sources: local, state and federal funds. The Texas Education Agency uses a system called the Foundation School Program, or FSP, to determine the amount of funding each district gets. That amount is based, in part, on average daily attendance per district, which is weighted differently for students based on need.
Now, pretend that FSP number is a bucket that must be filled. Each district first fills its bucket, at varying levels, with local property taxes. The state is then responsible for filling up any remaining space in the bucket. In short: most school funding derives from local sources; some comes from state and federal dollars.
During the 2016-17 school year, Texas public schools received approximately $60 billion across sources of funding. Of that, about 55% came from local sources, 40% came from state sources, and 5% came from federal sources.
However, over recent years, the state’s share of public education dollars has decreased. When looking only at state and local sources of funding, the state contributed 49% of public education dollars in 2008; in 2019, the state is projected to contribute just 38% of public education dollars, forcing local property taxpayers to pick up the slack.
Still, public education represents a tremendous – and the largest – portion of the state’s biennial budget. For the 2018-19 biennium, public K-12 education accounted for 39% of the state’s general revenue fund. When combined with higher education costs, the state of Texas expends nearly 53% of its budget on education.
-  Texas Education Agency, Annual Report, 2017.
-  Texas Education Agency, 2017-2018 Budgeted Financial Data
-  Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal Size-Up 2016-2017
-  Legislative Budget Board, Fiscal Size-Up 2018-2019
Compared to other states, Texas ranks 43rd in public education spending. For that investment, Texas 4th graders scored 46th and 19th on national reading and math examinations, respectively, during the 2017 academic year. These results are either considerably worse or unchanged from where they were in 2007, when 4th grade students in Texas ranked 31st and 19th on the same reading and math examinations.
-  EdWeek Quality Counts 2018 Report
-  National Center for Education Statistics, 2017 NAEP State Comparisons
-  National Center for Education Statistics, 2007 NAEP State Comparisons
Public school districts in Texas prioritize teachers and instructional resources in their budgets. On average, about half of a school district’s annual expenses goes toward teachers and nearly 20% goes toward support personnel and instructional materials for students. Of the remaining dollars, 25% cover buses, meals, extra-curricular activities, and overhead costs. Just 9% went to administrative personnel. Even when only considering the funding that is allocated for professional salaries, administrative personnel receive just 10% of those dollars, while teachers receive 73%.
-  Texas Education Agency PEIMS; Moak, Casey & Associates, “Tracking the Traditional Public School Dollar.”
-  Texas Education Agency, PEIMS Staff Salary FTE Statewide Report, 2017-2018
In 1993, the Texas Legislature implemented Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code, a system known as recapture that is often referred to as “Robin Hood.”
Remember the bucket analogy? Some school districts overfill their bucket through local property tax collections, while other school districts fill up hardly any of their bucket through property taxes. Respectively, these school districts are known as “property-wealthy” and “property-poor.”
Recapture is designed to make the school finance system more equitable between districts by providing additional funds to property-poor school districts by “recapturing” the overflow of local revenue from property-wealthy school districts’ property tax collections.
When enacted, just 34 school districts in the state qualified as property-wealthy and had to send money back to the state in the form of recapture payments. Today, more than 230 school districts are subject to recapture and, collectively, send over $2 billion back to the state in total recapture payments. By 2023, this amount is projected to increase to nearly $6 billion. A significant portion of this growth is due to booming residential and commercial growth among urban school districts with declining student enrollment, a combination that pushes these districts into the “property-wealthy” category. As such, school districts serving mostly low-income, high-needs students are increasingly subject to large recapture payments.
-  Texas Education Agency, 1994-2019 Chapter 41 Recapture Paid by District
-  Texas Education Agency
Student need in Texas has grown considerably over the past two decades, as an increasing proportion of the state’s students are considered economically-disadvantaged as determined by student eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch (“FRL”). In 1997, a little less than half of Texas public school students were FRL. In 2017, that proportion had grown to 59%.
Similarly, the proportion of students considered English-Language-Learning has grown in recent years, from 15% of all Texas public school students in 2007 to 19% in 2017.
Although there are weights in the school finance formula to provide additional funding for high-needs students, Texas’ school finance system as a whole does not prioritize these students. In fact, Texas school districts serving the most low-income and FRL students receive approximately 4% less funding per-pupil than school districts serving the fewest low-income and FRL students.
-  Texas Education Agency, Texas Academic Performance Report, 2016-17 State Performance
-  Ibid.
-  The Education Trust, The State of Funding Equity in Texas, 2017