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Big Money at Stake in Hearne v Mumford

By: Steve Fullhart
By: Steve Fullhart

While schools provide the education to students, it's the students that define the money to run schools.

"Often times, we look at schools and we see just the curriculum and maybe the extracurriculars," said Steve Johnson, College Station ISD's superintendent. "I think we often overlook the fact that, really, it's a city in and of itself. It has a transportation piece. It has a food service piece. It has a construction, maintenance piece."

And for some districts, it's state money that serves a main source of revenue, money that comes from districts like College Station through the much-debated Robin Hood system. The state determines how much goes where based, in part, on property values.

Before Friday's stay was issued, Hearne stood to re-inherit dozens of Mumford students. As Johnson explains, that influx would have brought Hearne more money.

"Their state aid would increase because that property value number didn't change. It stayed the same, but the other factor did change.

"In other words, if you look at the property value as the numerator, and the number of children as the denominator, the denominator changed because you just increased that number," Johnson explained. "So you changed that property wealth per child, and when you change that number, if it declines, then the state steps in and offers more assistance."

For the 2002-2003 school year, state revenues made up just over 50 percent of the revenue in Hearne schools, while in Mumford, it was nearly three quarters. Were Mumford students to be forced back to Hearne, the state money to Mumford would decrease, and Hearne would receive even more.

"It is a system that has worked up to this point," Johnson said, "and now, it's a system that's very much in need of being revamped, and maybe even completely redone."

So while Austin pushes the education funding issue around, and as Hearne transfers prepare to return to Mumford, whether Hearne gets more state funding in the end lies in the hands of the courts.


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