By Jack Welch, Ph.D.
Special to the E-T
Just because two school districts provide the same resources for their athletic programs, it does not mean both are equal. What is equal? Equal support is more than money. Leadership and potential are two important ingredients.
The two fundamental aspects of school finance fairness are equity for taxpayers and equity for students. There are more than 100 districts in Texas with taxable values at or below $100,000 per student. There are more than 60 districts with taxable values at or above $1 million per student.
The ability to provide educational opportunities for students is much different for the property-wealthy districts as compared to the property-poor districts. The property wealthy district with $1 million taxable value per student has an 80-cent maintenance and operations rate, provides $8,000 for the local share of per student revenue, and has 37 pennies of maintenance and operations tax rate left.
The property-poor district has $100,000 of taxable value per student, $1.17 maintenance and operations tax rate, provides $1,170 local revenue per student, and has 0 pennies of maintenance and operations tax rate left. This is an obvious example that without state aid there cannot be an equal education program in most Texas communities.
Consequently, athletic programs providing amenities like indoor workout facilities, spacious weight training facilities, all-weather practice and game fields enhance the ability for students to perform but also in attracting potential student-athletes to relocate to the school district. Facilities and resources are one thing but having great players make the difference. I have always heard it is not the x’s and o’s that make the difference on the field, but it is the jimmy and joes.
To be efficient, funding public school education must be equitable. Pure equity is equal yield for equal effort. A penny of tax effort provides the same revenue per student after permissible adjustments for student and district cost. According to State Policy-Sec. 42.001(b) of the Education Code, the public-school finance system of this state shall adhere to a standard of neutrality providing substantially equal access to similar revenue per student at similar tax effort.
Taxpayer equity is important for communities. The economic impact on the community magnifies when companies are searching for communities to move. A company will consider a community with a low tax rate that can provide smaller classes and has a greater ability to hire the best teachers for the children.
Inner-city schools tend to be property poor. Inner city students generally performed poorly compared with students in suburban schools. Inner-city schools generally have a higher percentage of first-year teachers, higher enrollments, fewer extra-curricular activities, fewer library and computer resources, and less parent involvement.
The same holds true for attracting student-athletes to a community. What kind of resources does the district provide? Is there a sense of excellence within the program or does the district fail to provide the extra’s?
If the district is poor, it is easy to understand, it is what it is. If the district is fully funded and has a healthy fund balance, then examine the leadership. I believe what will be discovered, is there are many leadership problems. Athletics will only be a small part of the problem.
Thought for the week: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” --- Mark Twain
Jack Welch, Ph.D., is a college football coach and has been in public school and collegiate education for 39 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.