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.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve a $1.6 billion budget, which includes across-the-board raises for school employees.

The board also voted to hire Stephanie Hawley as AISD's first chief equity officer and in favor of a new dress code.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Texas Legislature usually finds a theme that emerges during the 140-day session. Two years ago, many people would call it the session of the “bathroom bill.” Even though an effort to restrict restroom access for the state’s transgender population did not become law, the debate around the subject took up much of the oxygen under the dome.

Emree Weaver / The Texas Tribune

After a long wait, the Texas Senate has finally unveiled a thorough proposal for how to tackle school finance and school property tax reform — bringing back several ideas the House already nixed.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Independent School District would pay $194 million less in recapture in 2020 if House Bill 3, that chamber's $9 billion school finance plan, is passed.

Julia Reihs / KUT

With Texas House lawmakers unveiling their long-awaited school finance proposal Tuesday and the Senate's version likely close behind, teacher pay appears to be emerging as one of the biggest sticking points between the two chambers.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

State lawmakers filed dozens of bills about educating kids ahead of Tuesday's start to the legislative session. The most interesting discussion at the Capitol will likely be around school funding.

It’s something the Legislature brings up every session, but bills aren't always passed. Lawmakers typically pass school funding bills only when they're forced to act because of a lawsuit.

Montinique Monroe for KUT

It's time for the Austin Independent School District to do something drastic to improve its financial situation, a member of a task force studying its budget says.  

On the table: closing schools and changing boundaries.

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.”