By Eric Dick
HCDE Trustee & Board VP
Senate Bill 646 eliminates Harris County Department of Education’s (HCDE) ability to collect a tax. Personally, I love the idea of lowering property taxes. If you live in Harris County you are more than familiar with your taxes increasing every year. Along with a sluggish economy due to the low oil prices, at some point, many of us feel that we will be taxed out of our homes.
Unfortunately, I’m certain that eliminating HCDE’s ability to tax will result in large increases in taxes from local school districts. Seriously, can you tell me with a straight face that HISD wouldn’t jump at an opportunity to significantly increase our taxes? I didn’t think so.
Many of us hear about HCDE and don’t understand what it does. We think that it is an unnecessary government entity that needs to go. Heck, I’ve been guilty of campaigning to abolish HCDE before I realized that what it does.
For instance, HCDE provides approximately 53% of the special education therapy services received by special needs students in Harris County Schools. HCDE even has four schools: Academic & Behavior School East, Academic & Behavior School West, Highpoint School East, and Highpoint School West. 100% of the students served at HCDE four campuses are at-risk students. Two of these schools serve students who have serious intellectual and developmental problems. The other two of these schools serve the most troubled and adjudicated youth. All in all, HCDE provides nearly services to nearly 140,000 students.
Now here is the beauty – because HCDE serves 24 out of 25 of the Harris County School Districts, it provides these specialized services at a lower cost than each school district could provide on its own. You know, economics of the scale. It also provides these necessary services at a reduced rate because it is tax subsidized.
I agree we all have been taxed enough already. I also believe that the fault of our high property taxes is due to our very corrupt public education system. If you wonder where our tax dollars go you should look at your tax bill. HISD charges $1.0267 per $100 of taxable value for tax years. Give them a chance. They would love to increase it to an even $1.05. Heck, they increased our taxes last year by $0.01 because they are bad with money.
HCDE charges a tax rate of $0.0052 per $100 of taxable value and has lowered its tax rate every single year since 2013. HCDE is a Republican controlled education entity. That is why it is one of the most efficient government agencies. Are we seriously going to take a gamble at messing up a working system for the illusion of $10 a year in property tax savings? Very foolish.
Many people say HCDE will shut down if you take away its ability to tax. Regardless of whether HCDE exists, you are guaranteeing an increase in the price of these services that Harris County School are required to provide. I can promise with 100% certainty that any increase in price will be felt by taxpayers. With HISD’s current Superintendent is saying, “Look at public education as an investment, not an expense,” you know that HISD will increase taxes far more than enough to cover any increase in costs.
Look, I don’t think HCDE is anywhere close to being perfect. I do believe that HCDE is an opportunity for Republicans to show Harris County residents that we do a better job with education. I also think that HCDE is an opportunity for Republicans to show our Christ-like compassion to disabled children.
During my tenure at HCDE, I will diligently push for it to be a part of School Choice to help fill in the gaps resulting from our failed public schools. I will lobby for HISD to be broken down into 5 to 8 smaller school districts. I encourage fellow Republicans to take off the blinders of wanting to abolish a Republican controlled government entity without embracing its consequences and envisioning our opportunity to end the corruption of a Democrat controlled HISD.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve residents of Harris County.
HCDE Trustee & Board Vice President