Education News

After Harvey, Houston ISD, Other Districts Could Get Break on Recapture Bills to State

Texas Education Commissioner could also set up grant programs for districts that suffered damage from Harvey, but aren’t considered property wealthy.

Stephanie Garcia, left, waits with her family at a high school gym to be evacuated as the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey begin to make landfall, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Harvey intensified into a hurricane Thursday and steered for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain, 125 mph winds and 12-foot storm surges in what could be the fiercest hurricane to hit the United States in almost a dozen years.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Before Harvey flooded much of the city, the Houston Independent School District owed almost $80 million in so-called Robin Hood money. It’s considered property wealthy and has to share money with property-poor school districts.

It worried Superintendent Richard Carranza in the wake of the storm, when he roughly estimated the damage and manpower hours could cost HISD hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This is important for us, that we look at the totality of what’s going to be flowing out, in terms of resources, for HISD and that we have that very structured conversation about how do we make the district whole, or at least somewhat whole,” Carranza said.

Turns out wealthy districts like Houston can get a break on their bill after a natural disaster.

Attorney David Thompson, who counsels school districts, said that they can apply some of the money owed to the state to disaster-related expenses that insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency won’t cover.

“Frankly, it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “After a disaster, local property tax dollars that citizens are paying certainly should be used first to help recovery in their own community before simply being sent to Austin to be put in general revenue.”

Thompson estimated Houston’s bill could be reduced by several million dollars. 

He added that the Texas Education Commissioner could also set up grant programs for districts that suffered damage from Harvey, but aren’t considered property wealthy.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. 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. Laura has won awards for...

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