Recapture, also known as the "Robin Hood law," refers to a plan diverting property tax dollars from school districts considered property-wealthy, like the Austin Independent School District, to poorer ones across Texas. State legislators created the plan to help equalize school funding in response to the 1989 Texas Supreme Court case Edgewood v. Kirby.

In that case, 68 school districts sued, claiming the state’s school financing system violated the Texas Constitution. The system, which is based primarily on local property taxes, resulted in significant differences in spending on students in wealthy districts versus poorer ones. 

The court ruled in the districts' favor, finding the system was not in line with the Constitution’s call on legislators to ensure a “general diffusion of knowledge” and maintain an “efficient system of public free schools.” The Legislature passed the recapture law to make funding more equal.

AISD is the largest payer into the state’s recapture program. According to the Texas Education Agency, AISD paid 23 percent of the total collected in the recapture program for the 2016-2017 school year. The next highest payer was Plano ISD with 6 percent. AISD has paid over $2.5 billion to the program since 2001.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

As a taxpayer, this is a big year for Amanda Braziel.

The Austin Independent School District librarian has owned a home in Central Austin for 15 years. This year, the property tax bill for her house, which is appraised at around $363,757, was $4,336. That's a lot for a public school librarian whose gross monthly income is about $4,192.

“I’m essentially paying more in property taxes than I bring home from one month working in AISD,” she says.

Does all the money collected in recapture stay in education or is it used for other state-funded programs? Yes, all recapture money is put into the education fund.

Which school districts receive recapture dollars? The state doesn’t track where each recapture dollar goes. Because the money is put into the general education fund, it gets mixed in with sales taxes, money from the lottery and other funding streams.

How Does Recapture Affect School Funding In Texas?

Jun 27, 2018
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A large chunk of funding for schools in Austin comes from property taxes, and as many Austinites know, those keep going up every year.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

As Austin’s property taxes continue to rise, so does the amount on the check AISD writes to the state.

The Austin Independent School District’s Board of Trustees approved a budget Monday night that sends more than half of its local tax revenue away from the district. Texas law requires wealthier districts to send a portion of their property taxes back to the state to help out smaller, poorer districts in a program known as “recapture.”