District judge rules in favor of over 600 school districts
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A district judge ruled Monday in favor of over 600 school districts in Texas. This is a victory for many educators in El Paso.
If Tornillo Independent School District increased property taxes by one penny, their four schools would get a little more than $5,000. But if taxes increased by one penny in the center of Dallas, Highland Park ISD would raise over $20 million.
And it's all because of property taxes, according to former Tonillo Superintendent Paul Vranish who's spent decades as an educator and supporter of the Texas Equity Center Organization. Vranish, who resigned from TISD after being investigated for allegedly mishandling funds, was one of the only people I called who was willing to go on camera.
"They simple have the ability to raise more money," Vranish said. "Now how the state attempted to make that fair was to simply say 'OK we'll take some them and give to others."
It's the Robin Hood method which District Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of for more than 600 districts that consider themselves impoverished. Dietz decided the way the state legislature is funding schools -- two-thirds of it coming from property taxes --- is unconstitutional.
"There's a big difference in the funding formulas so we're looking for a change, said YISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski.
Zolkoski is superintendent of the third largest district in El Paso,Ysleta ISD which has a budget of about $400 million. YISD is better off than other districts in El Paso, including San Elizario, the poorest, spends about $9,500 per student.
But Highland Park ISD, considered one of the wealthier areas in the state, budgets about $138 million, spending on average $21,000 per student.
But some people say taking money from Highland Park schools to educate kids in El Paso is unfair to property owners paying higher tax rates. Yet Vranish said many people believe public funding should be equal across the board.
"To short children out of opportunities because they happen to grow up in a community that doesn't have a lot of property wealth, I don't think is a conservative issue," Vranish said.
This victory though, may be short lived. The state legislature is tasked with finding a new funding formula, but it's expected representatives will be hammered by districts with more money and consequentially, more lobbying power.
The state is expected to appeal the ruling.
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