In the wake of the 2011 school funding cutbacks, Lesley and Ethridge said Waco ISD shuttered nine campuses.
Lesley said Texas ranks 49th in funding public education, spending one dollar more than 50th ranked Nevada.
“Can you think of anything else Texas is willing to be below average on?” she asked.
Texas funds its public schools, on average, $3,000 below the national per-child average, she added.
In addition, the state froze its target revenue system “in order to shield wealthy districts from having to cut their budgets,” Lesley said, adding that they also froze the tax rates.
To illustrate these points, she showed citizens a slide of maintenance-and-operations revenue for each of Palo Pinto County's public schools for 2011-12 in comparison to the state average and the weighted average of one of the highest funded Texas districts.
Lesley's graph showed MWISD at the lowest end, with $5,385 per weighted student, while the state average sat in the middle, with $5,976 per weighted student. The overall county average was $6,391 per student and Palo Pinto ISD, with $8,256 per weighted student, topped the county districts in average per-weighted-student revenue. She added Crane ISD (south of Monahans and Odessa) is funded at $10,142 per weighted student.
“Disparity was the big thing the lawsuit was about,” Lesley pointed out.
This translates to taxpayers, she said of the disparity. For example, she cited that taxpayers in Waco ISD pay $1.04 per $100 taxable property value, while Glen Rose ISD taxes at 82 cents per $100 valuation, because the state allocation for Glen Rose is greater.
The system is set up inequitably, she said, when the state does things like excuse wealthy districts from contributing more, freezes tax rates and cuts off the top the $5.4 billion.
“No other state has ever made that kind of [cut to public education] and Texas certainly can't sustain it,” she told a few audience members after the forum. “So the pot keeps shrinking and yet we are growing by 80,000 new kids a year. And, sometimes inconveniently, those 80,000 kids end up in districts, like Mineral Wells, [more] than they do in, say, in Dallas, which has more money.”