South San High School students brainstorm ways to improve the mental health resources in their school.
South San High School students meet to discuss the mental health resources available in and around South San ISD at South San Antonio High School in May 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Texas educators have long complained about the State’s broken public school funding mechanism, and before the 86th legislative session starts in January, education advocates hope to attract business leaders’ voices to their calls for reform.

On Thursday, an advocacy group seeking to engage philanthropists in education policy will hold a forum in San Antonio at the Pearl Stable to educate community members and business leaders on the importance of adequately funding public schools and the challenges the current funding scheme presents.

The Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC) has held similar meetings in Dallas and Austin already. San Antonio’s event is sponsored by the San Antonio Area Foundation, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“In every legislative session, we always hear that we are going to solve this issue, and the legislative session passes and nothing is solved,” Area Foundation spokeswoman Lorna Stafford said. “So now what is happening in these TEGAC meetings is bringing together private- and public-sector leaders, educational leaders, philanthropists, bringing them all together in one room to hear what is going on, hear the research, get a historical perspective … and see if we can find a solution.”

Jimmie Don Aycock, the former chairman of the State House Public Education Committee, will provide some context Thursday on the history of school finance. In Texas, public schools are financed mostly by local property tax dollars and state funding, although the portion of state funding in this formula has decreased in recent years as property values rise.

In 2006, the State’s share of the funding mechanism was 50 percent, and by 2017, that portion decreased to less than 38 percent, according to State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), who currently chairs the House Public Education Committee.

However, even as property values increase and provide more property tax revenue, school districts struggle with the public school finance system, which doesn’t always allow schools to use the additional revenue. At a certain point, when a district becomes too “property wealthy,” it has to send money back to the State as part of what is called a recapture payment.

David Thompson, a school finance expert and attorney, will speak at Thursday’s event about the decrease in state funding.

David Thompson. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Other speakers will include Jennifer Esterline, founder and executive director of TEGAC; Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber; and Becca Brune, president and chief operating officer of the Area Foundation.

The school finance forum will conclude with a panel discussion and question-and-answer session moderated by Rivard Report Publisher Robert Rivard featuring Thompson, Northside Independent School District Superintendent Brian Woods, Holdsworth Center President Kate Rogers, Bank of America Senior Vice President and Community Engagement Manager Jennifer Cantu, and MALDEF counsel Celina Moreno.

“We hope that [those attending] can walk out of the lunch with new knowledge and with a charge for change … that they will have a clear understanding of the issue and they will have a clear action step of what to do next,” Stafford said.

The free event, which will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Pearl Stable, requires advance registration.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.