The commitment to our state’s next generation began in the earliest days of the Texas Revolution and continues through a mandate in our state’s constitution. More than one third of the state budget ($80.433 billion) is dedicated to agencies of education to fund public schools in Texas.
In 2016, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that while the current school finance system is constitutional, it is “undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement.” One of the greatest priorities of the Texas Legislature in 2017 was to reform the school finance system.
Texas schools aren’t serving students or taxpayers as well as they should and there are two large reasons why. Under the “Robin Hood” recapture system, local tax dollars are shifted to a large bureaucracy in Austin and to other parts of the state. It’s no secret that this scheme has had a detrimental effect on many schools across West Texas. Due to the minerals and resources that the Permian Basin is blessed with, many Permian Basin school districts have been labeled as “property-wealthy,” a designation which has caused our local property taxes to be recaptured and sent to Austin for bureaucrats to redistribute in accordance with an outdated formula. While it is important to ensure that students across the state have the opportunity to learn regardless of their financial circumstance or their geographic location, it is also important to allow oil patch school districts to benefit from resources they provide. I proudly introduced legislation to repeal Robin Hood, but the measure simply didn’t have the votes to get it passed during the 2017 legislative session.
I am working to be persuade my colleagues on this issue and I have to be very candid about how these policies are playing out in West Texas. But more than just being able to persuade colleagues on the issue, everybody has to understand that we’re dealing with very imperfect policies. According to the Texas Education Agency, there were 347 property-wealthy school districts during the 2017-2018 school year, and projections for the 2018-2019 school year has that number growing to 451. As that number increases, I am optimistic that we are building more and more support for a repeal of Robin Hood. More school districts and more legislators are starting to find out what we’ve known in West Texas for years now. For these reasons, I will be filing legislation during the 2019 legislative session to repeal Robin Hood.
My goal for the 2019 legislative session is to enable school districts and local property taxpayers to determine what to do with their money. I also aspire for Texas to be a place where teachers can teach the way they see best fits their students, and students can focus on learning rather than testing alone, while also ensuring accountability for our tax dollars spent on education. School finance reform that is pro-student and pro-taxpayer can be a big win for the future of Texas.
God Bless Texas!
State Rep. Brooks Landgraf serves Texas House District 81, which encompasses Andrews, Ector, Ward and Winkler counties. Landgraf lives in his hometown of Odessa with his wife, Shelby, and their daughter, Hollis Rose. He works as a fourth-generation West Texas cattle rancher and practices law at the firm of Todd, Barron, Thomason, Hudman & Bebout, P.C. in Odessa. An Eagle Scout, Landgraf is also active in several local non-profits