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La Fonda de \(a Noche Southwestern Cuisine Liberal FoodConservative Prices *La , kki 474-7562 1., 2405 Nueces wealth” of Texas school districts by dividing the market value of taxable property in each district by the number of students in the district. Then you determine the rate of taxation which would produce the $210 per pupil sum when multiplied by the state’s average per pupil wealth. The statewide per pupil wealth average is about $93,800. Any district below this level will be considered poor and entitled to be “equalized” under the governor’s plan. Of course, $210 per pupil is not equal to $240, no matter how the governor figures it. That’s hardly “meeting the challenge of the Rodriguez decision,” a phrase in vogue during the last two sessions of the Legislature, but now evidently dropped in favor of a more attractive political ideai.e., lowering property taxes. In case you’ve forgotten, in that 1971 decision a three judge federal panel ruled Texas’ school finance system unconstitutional because children in poor districts received less money for their education than children in rich districts on the basis of property taxes. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision in March, 1973, on a 5-4 ruling, stating that education was not a fundamental constitutional interest and should be left in the hands of the state legislature. Nonetheless, both courts criticized the Texas system, and legislators vowed to improve the system called “chaotic and unjust” by the nation’s highest court. Now, back to the governor’s arithmetic. Briscoe proposes to pump an additional $100 million into “equalization aid” to help the poor districts, and to cut back the number of districts eligible to receive such aid. Under the 1975 law, even districts with slightly above average ability to pay could receive such aid. No more. But these steps hardly level out the distribution of state school aid. Take a poor district like North Forest in Harris County. North Forest raises only $58 per pupil from its 22 cents per $100 tax. That’s because taxable property in that district equals only $26,476 per pupil. Briscoe is promising North Forest and similar districts that the state will make up the difference between it and the “average” district by contributing $152 in equalization aid. For rich districts like Deer Park, in the affluent section of Harris County, however, the governor’s plan holds even greater promise. While North Forest gains about $178 per pupil more than last year through equalizing efforts, Deer Park, through the foundation program’s provisions, will gain an additional $324 per pupil. That’s because taxable property is valued at $275,055 per pupil, more than ten times that in North Forest. For its 22 cents tax, Deer Park can raise $605 per pupil, putting it far above the state average. But the rich district will not have to spend its $605 per pupil on the foundation program because Briscoe’s new financing plan will pump an additional $2.3 million into the district next year to relieve taxpayers of the property tax burden. An important consideration to remember is that rich districts still might not opt to lower property taxes but channel more money into “enrichment.” Briscoe has an answer for that too: put a “cap” or ceiling on property taxes of $1 per $100 valuation. It sounds good at first, but students of school finance are saying that the cap is meaningless for several reasons. Number one is that new property values devised by the Governor’s Office of Education Resources are much higher than old John Poerner, who heads up that office, figured total taxable property in the state at $238 billionup from old values of $160 billion. So a $1 effort statewide will still raise more money than the old limit of $1.50 per $100. But that’s only part of the problem. A rich district like Deer Park can raise significantly more money without approaching the limitation than can a poor district like North Forest. Thus, poorer districts could conceivably hit the ceiling and be unable to raise teachers’ salaries and otherwise improve programs to the same extent as richer districts which never will approach the ceiling. Says Craig Foster, educational finance expert for the property tax project of the Intercultural Development Research Association, “The tax cap will hit the rich, big districts last. If it ever hits anybody, it will hit those districts making the biggest [tax] effort”the poor districts. The $1 cap would “allow all districts to move upward” in expenditures, according to David Thompson, a legislative aide workwho heads up two House committees on education. Massey and a number of other legislators have proposed that the state take over 100 percent of the costs of the minimum foundation program and set a limit on a district’s capability for enrichment. House Speaker Bill Clayton reportedly is leaning toward the Massey bill, because Briscoe’s proposal “doesn’t go far enough on reduction of property taxes,” said a Clayton aide. Tax reduction under the Massey plan would be mandatory, rather than simply possible, as in the governor’s proposal. Under the Massey plan, districts would be able to spend up to $331 per student \($90 cent per year more than the previous year. Such a plan, according to Thompson, would “hold the top districts stable” and let the others rise to that level. The governor’s plan, on the other hand, would allow for more equalization dollars per studentabout $35 more per student, as a matter of fact, so it may turn out to be November 26, 1976 21 E3COfcg 503 5 WEST 17 TH 476.0116 Jamul, Texas 717111 Bob and Sara Roebuck Anchor National Financial Services 1524 E. Anderson Lane, Austin bonds stocks insurance mutual funds optional retirement program Printers Stationers Mailers Typesetters High Speed Web Offset Publication Press Complete Computer Data Processing Services Counseling Designing Copy Writing Editing Journals Magazines Newspapers Books The Only 100% Union Shop in Texas! 512 / 442-7836 Box 3485 1714 S. Congress Austin, Tx 78764