Funding Texas Schools: Fair or Falling Short?

A five-part series examines school funding inequities in the Lone Star State.

Photo by Scott Dalton, Houston Public Media

Laura Isensee takes an in-depth and comprehensive look at the Texas school finance system, which many contend fails to adequately provide for the state’s neediest students, namely English learners and those from low-income families.

Efforts to improve education for all Texas students have been weighed down by decades of legal battles and political fights over how to fund public schools. Isensee humanizes this complex issue by telling the stories of those students and families adversely affected by school funding inequities, as well as the parents who have fought through the decades to ensure fairness and equity for all children, rich and poor.

The series first aired on Houston Public Media from April 27 through May 1, 2015.

Listen to Laura Isensee as she discusses the making of this series on EWA Radio with Emily Richmond on May 21, 2015.

Story Links

Series Overview

Listen to the entire series and explore exclusive Web content, including an interactive database and map that allows Texans find out how much funding their school district or charter school receives.

Part 1: How A dad helped start the fight for better public school funding in Texas

Texas has a long history of lawsuits over public school funding, with the latest saga reaching the Texas Supreme Court. But one of the earliest chapters starts with one family on the west side of San Antonio.

Part 2: How parents search for opportunities for their children, find different results

One mom lives 40 miles away from her son so that he can access a better public school education. Another mom testified in state court how her children experienced two very different districts: one rich and another poor.

Part 3: Why one superintendent’s budget falls short $1,300 per student

A Texas Superintendent says the state funding system doesn’t cover the actual cost of educating students who need more support.

Part 4: With current education system, Texas on course to be poorer, less competitive in 2050

The state’s former demographer said education funding can be a drag on the state’s future economy, pulling down household income, consumer spending and state revenue.

Part 5: How Texas might solve its school finance problems

One top lawmaker is mounting a reform effort in Austin. But some analysts say that it could widen the gap between the richest and poorest districts.

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Isensee has won awards for her work in print and radio, including best specialty/beat reporting from the Texas AP Broadcasters Association in 2014. Her radio stories have aired on national programs, such as NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Here & Now.”