Recapture: Frequently Asked Questions

What is recapture?

In a 1993 response to court rulings calling for a more equitable school funding system, the Legislature began requiring school districts with higher levels of property wealth per student to pay recapture. Recapture is the process through which these districts send some of their local property-tax revenue to the state. The process is often referred to as Robin Hood. The intent of recapture is to help all school districts have roughly similar amounts of money to spend per child. But over time, recapture has grown considerably, and today recapture payments have grown so large that the state uses those dollars to support areas of the budget other than education.

How much do local school districts pay in recapture?

Statewide, districts are paying $2.6 billion in recapture this year. Since 1993, Chapter 41 districts have given more than $264 billion to the state through recapture. And the problem is getting worse. Absent legislative action, statewide recapture payments could exceed $3.8 billion by 2021.

What’s causing recapture payments to increase so rapidly?

Public education is largely a shared cost between the state (funded by sales taxes, gas taxes and other state revenue sources) and local school districts (funded by property taxes). But the state’s share of education funding has been dropping: The state paid 46 percent of funding for public schools in 2008 and pays 38 percent today, because the Legislature has reduced its commitment to schools as property values statewide have grown. So more and more of education is paid for with local property taxes. And the more the system relies on property taxes, the more it relies on recapture.

What’s the best way to reduce recapture?

The most effective way to reduce recapture is to put more state revenue into the education system statewide, which would benefit all students. When less of education funding is covered by property taxes, there is not as much of a need for recapture.

Who are the districts that pay recapture?

Hundreds of school districts – districts that educate about one in four students statewide – pay recapture. Many of these districts, such as Austin and Dallas ISD, serve students that predominantly come from low-income families. Chapter 41 school districts are severely limited in their ability to meet their students’ needs, because they have to send away much (if not all) of the money they collect in local property taxes. But if they reduce their tax rates, they will be penalized by the state, and be allowed to keep even less of their local funding.

What can I do to help more local dollars stay in local schools?

School finance will be a major topic of discussion in the 2019 legislative session. That’s why it’s important to contact your legislators in the House and Senate and let them know that you want the state to make a significant investment in public schools – for the benefit of all students. To learn how to contact your legislator, visit Texans for Local Schools.

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