Updated 11/27/2012 09:47 AM
AISD superintendent testifies in school finance trial
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The trial in a lawsuit filed by school districts across Texas against the state has stretched into its second month. At this point, the judge and lawyers are hearing from superintendents from a variety of districts to get a feel for what it’s like to run a school district.
Austin Independent School District’s own superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, took the stand Monday afternoon. AISD is one of hundreds of school districts suing the state, saying they are not receiving enough funding in order to take care of what is required of them with new and tougher state standards.
Carstarphen testified that enrollment growth combined with more need to educate economically disadvantaged students as well as growing Hispanic population cannot be handled well under current state funding. During the last legislative session, Texas lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from the statewide education budget.
The AISD superintendent said the district has used money from its reserve in order to maintain current classroom standards and avoid cutting teaching jobs.
She also predicted that while Austin will see property taxes rise, the district will not see any extra revenue due to the “recapture” system, also known as “Robin Hood.”
Under the recapture system, property-wealthy districts must send a portion of their revenues to poorer districts. According to AISD’s website, the district has contributed $1.3 billion over the last decade through the recapture program.
While recapture is not part of the current lawsuit, Carstarphen made it a point to mention that while AISD may be considered a “property-wealthy district,” it has significant financial struggles.
“There a few wealthy people in Austin, but just because the perspective on our property may be considered wealthy, our school district is not,” she said “With the demographics of students who live in poverty, our enrollment is two-thirds children in poverty.”
Along with Carstarphen, other superintendents have testified during the trial that their districts are struggling to keep up with increased standards.
The state has argued that the districts may not be making the best use of the funding they are currently given.
The trial will likely to stretch into January.