By: Sanford L. Houston
If you are confused by HISD Proposition 1 on your election ballot, you are not alone. The politicians who wrote the language more than 20 years ago, and required it to be used on the ballot, knew it was a trick question.
They say it’s about attendance credits, but it’s not. Don’t be fooled. Proposition 1 is about taking more than $1 billion over four years out of HISD schools and sending the money to Austin, this year’s payment will be $162 million. And here’s the catch: There is absolutely no guarantee any of the funds will be used for education. The more money Austin has gotten from recapture payments the less they have funded public education. That’s a fact.
That’s why we are recommending voting AGAINST HISD Proposition 1. Be sure to go all the way down your ballot, because for many voters, HISD Proposition 1 is at the bottom.
If Proposition 1 passes, HISD will be forced to make deep deep budget cuts to the classroom,
closing neighborhood schools and laying off teachers — more than 1,400 in the first year — resulting in overcrowding and increases to class size. Essential programs that keep kids in school and contribute to healthy learning would be severely cut or eliminated, including tutoring and mentoring programs, mental health resources, college counseling and programs to prevent truancy and dropouts.
If you’re wondering how Proposition 1 got on the ballot in the first place, you’ll need to go back more than 20 years to when the State of Texas was sued for not providing equal education funding for Texas children. The legislature agreed to a temporary fix called “recapture,” which came to be known as “Robin Hood.”
In theory, money would be taken from wealthier school districts and given to poorer districts. That’s where the Robin Hood nickname came in. But the recapture system is still in place and it’s not doing what was intended. Robin Hood has turned into robbing the hood. It’s taking money from HISD where 76.4% of its students are on free and reduced lunch.
This year, Houston was forced into the recapture system – but voters have to approve the payments. If you vote FOR HISD Proposition 1 then HISD will start by paying $162 million of our tax dollars to Austin and they will not be spent in Houston. That number is projected to have grown to over $1 billion dollars within four years. If you vote AGAINST HISD Proposition 1, which we are urging you to, then you are against sending our Houston tax dollars to be spent elsewhere. If voters do not approve the payments, the Texas Education Agency can “detach” or reassign property tax revenues from certain HISD properties. That’s why some wealthy commercial property owners want Proposition 1 to pass. They are not worried about HISD, they are worried about themselves and keeping their corporate tax dollars in Houston not keeping our education tax dollars in HISD. By the way, TEA is on record as saying that they have no clue how to detach property and that Houston is being “non-compliant” by challenging their right to steal our tax dollars for their use and not our use. That charge is disrespectful to HISD taxpayers.
The way this misleading law is written it only gives taxpayers one chance to defeat or approve this proposition. If it’s not defeated then HISD will pay recapture payments forever. By way of explanation, Austin ISD started out with small payments. Their voters voted for their recapture payments. Now their annual payment is over $400 million dollars and growing. All school districts who pay recapture payments report wishing they had defeated the ballot measure and they have had to raise taxes to help pay recapture payments and to try and maintain programming. Another interesting phenomenon in Austin ISD, is that recapture tax increases has led to gentrification. It’s no longer affordable for poor people to live there anymore. The same will probably be true in Houston.
Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Houston Federation of Teachers, many HISD Trustees, including Trustee Jolanda Jones, and other education professionals say living under the recapture system will decimate our schools and deny too many kids a quality education. They know that depriving the state legislature of a billion dollars of our tax revenue will force the legislature to act and finally make changes to this outdated, unfair and dangerous law.
Make sure you vote this election and make sure you vote AGAINST HISD Proposition 1. Early voting ends November 4. Election Day is November 8.