HOUSTON - On Saturday voters living within Houston Independent School District’s boundaries will have a chance to vote on a measure that could impact them even if they don't have kids in HISD schools. Proposition 1 is a decision that could mean paying more in taxes.
“Robin Hood” is the story of the hero outlaw who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. It’s also the nickname for Texas’ school funding system that operates essentially the same way and has been the status quo since 1993.
In 2017, even though more than 75 percent of their students are labeled “economically disadvantaged,” HISD has been labeled “property wealthy” because the value of Houston’s homes and businesses keep going up.
No matter the outcome of the vote on Proposition 1, the state is going to take money from HISD and give it to poorer school districts.
What voters are deciding is how they pay up.
They’ll be asked whether they’re for or against, “Authorizing the board of trustees of the Houston Independent School District to purchase attendance credits from the state with local tax revenues.”
Here’s what that means: A vote for Prop 1 means Houston ISD writes a $77.5 million check to the state for the upcoming year, though the district expects to pay much more during the few years that follow.
A vote against Prop 1 means Houston ISD will not write the state a check. Instead, the state will permanently take more than $8 billion in commercial property from HISD’s tax rolls.
That includes the Galleria, Greenway Plaza, and several properties downtown. The state will assign them to Aldine ISD starting in July.
Those advocating a For vote say not doing so means HISD loses $96 million in tax revenue every year. They argue those businesses would face higher taxes and may relocate, or new businesses may avoid the Houston area.
Finally, they say homeowners would have to shell out more, too, because they’d be picking up more of the slack.
Those advocating an Against vote say writing that check means HISD will pay more in the long run: more than $1 billion over the next four years.
They say that would mean big cuts to several academic and social support programs in a district where three-quarters of the students are poor.
Finally, they say giving in and paying up means giving up leverage in their fight against the Robin Hood system that takes from the wealthy school districts and gives to the poor.
That 24-year-old system was only supposed to be temporary until the state could fix the school funding system.