NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 5, 2006

The Texas Legislature has exhausted two years and four special sessions searching for a new way to finance public schools. Highland Park schools (near Dallas), however, have had enough. Rather than wait for money that's unlikely to come, the district will raise cash a simpler way -- by asking for it. Lots of it, say observers.

District officials say they need the financial security an endowment of that magnitude would provide, but some say it raises equity concerns because few communities can raise that kind of cash. As public schools nationwide struggle with funding cuts, many see endowments -- more common for private schools and universities -- as unavoidable.

  • The district is considered wealthy by the state, but it spends less per student than Dallas. Dallas suburbs Southlake Carroll, Coppell, Richardson and Plano also spend more.
  • During the 2004-05 school year, Highland Park spent $6,419 per student, enough to be ranked 37th out of 68 North Texas districts. The state average was $6,526 that year.

The gap would be even wider without donations, say observers.

  • Highland Park received $331 in private funds for each student during the 2004-05 school year.
  • In the early 1990s, before the current school finance system started, Highland Park consistently topped the rankings statewide without private dollars.

District leaders say they wouldn't be in a funding predicament if the tax system didn't drain their revenues. Almost three-quarters of Highland Park's property tax revenue is redistributed to poorer districts.

By the end of this summer, Highland Park will have sent almost $600 million to the state since the finance system started in 1993. Since then, parents have stepped up to fill gaps, giving more than $23.7 million.

Source: Kristen Holland, "HP will pass hat to fund schools; Officials: $100 million endowment would give district fiscal stability," Dallas Morning News, May 4, 2006.


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