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The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is facing a $107 million shortfall for the 2016 - 2017 school year. This is because, under the state of Texas’ current funding structure, specifically Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code, HISD is required to make “recapture” payment to the state of $162 million. It is able to pay $55 million of that, but the remaining $107 million will need to be cut from the 2016 - 2017 budget. Chapter 41, also known as Robin Hood, is a state law that was passed in 1939 to try and balance inequalities between property-rich and property-poor districts. It allows the state to remove money from property-rich districts exceeding a state-set level and redistribute it to property-poor districts. The funds can also be allocated to the state’s general revenue and used for non-educational purposes. Even though 80 percent of HISD students are from low-income families, HISD has exceeded the state-set level due to Houston’s rising property values, causing it to go into recapture, according to the HISD.


Because the citizens of Houston are being given the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” to sending the money to the state, in the Houston general election set for November 08, CKW Luxe recently asked Mayor Turner about the recapture issue and what it means for Houston.


CKW Luxe: Please tell us what the issue of recapture means to HISD and to the city of Houston as a whole.


Mayor Turner: The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that our current system is constitutional. I disagree with that. Under our current system, HISD is going to have to give up $166 million to the Texas Education Agency, which the agency will distribute to other districts in the state. If this occurs, thousands of children will suffer. We need every dime to take care of our own. If citizens vote against handing over this money, the commissioner can grab properties and reassign them to other school districts in other parts of the state.


CKW: What will you be doing between now and November to work with the community on this issue?


MT: I have tasked Juliet Stipeche, the Director of Education, with partnering with HISD and other school districts under recapture, or at risk of recapture, to educate voters, to encourage them to say “no,” and to work to persuade the Texas legislature, in January of 2017, to change or reform the school finance system so districts are not subject to recapture. We need a fairer school finance system or our kids will suffer. This, to me, is our most pressing concern; not only will it affect HISD, it will affect the city of Houston as a whole.


CKW: What do you see as the community’s involvement in this matter?


MT: Voters in the city will have a huge say in the recapture issue. Parents should be alarmed, and they must be educated about the action and engaged in the process of doing something about it. If not, education will be adversely affected. It is crucial they are aware of how much money will leave and go somewhere else unless they take a stand against it.


If voters deny authorization to send the recapture payments to the state, “the state education commissioner has the power to detach the HISD’s highest-value properties and to assign them to property-poor districts,” according to Off the Kuff. Therefore, the owners of these properties will pay their taxes to another school district. Because detachment wouldn’t go into effect before July of 2017, lawmakers will have the chance to try to amend the school finance system, if they so desire, after the state legislature reconvenes next January.

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