By Karen Daniels
Simply put, Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code makes provisions for wealthy school districts to share their local tax revenue with poorer school districts. Chapter 41 is also referred to as the “Robin Hood” program. Though the application becomes more complex than the definition, establishing Chapter 41 status is determined by dividing the district’s total property value for the prior year by the weighted average daily attendance for the current year. If that amount exceeds $319,500, the district is officially a Chapter 41. Last year’s numbers for SMSD looked like this: $2,034,576,974 / 4,004 = $508,136.
Because these numbers are in a constant state of flux, SMSD run the figures every six weeks to keep track of what their potential pay out will be.
Omar Garcia is the man who developed the finance template that the District uses. At the March 21 Stafford City Council and SMSD School Board of Trustees Joint Budget Meeting, he was on hand to better explain the methodology behind the template and provide insight to the Boards. Though no longer with the TEA, Omar Garcia worked for the agency for 28 years. He explained that in 1990, when the TEA received desktop computers, the idea for the template came to him while watching a tutorial for Lotus 123. He plugged in the numbers for a formula that would help schools determine state aid. Today, all 1,030 school districts in the State of Texas use the template created by Omar Garcia.
In the last four years, Stafford MSD has paid out on average 1.575 million per year in the Chapter 41 program even though 68% of SMSD students are economically challenged. The reason? Over 70% of the tax base in Stafford is business or industry, resulting in Stafford being designated as property wealthy. This year, though, due to an almost 11% increase in student enrollment, it is estimated that Stafford MSD will only payout roughly $70,000 into the program, and next year, if enrollment growth continues, it is predicted that Stafford may not be a Chapter 41 at all. However, all of this could change with the 83rd Legislative session currently going on in Austin. We will just have to wait and see.