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How is the proper use of public funds in Texas schools assessed?

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2017 | Municipal Defense

As a public school official, you understand the responsibilities you have to the residents of Texas. These include both the charge you have to ensure their children have the best possible education, and the appropriate expenditures of the public’s tax dollars. Because the former is so dependent on the latter, state laws provide careful definitions and regulations on the proper use of public funds.

The Texas Association of School Boards describes public funds as moneys controlled by a governmental entity, including those raised through taxes or fees. It could also include any money your district collects through fund raisers and other means.

Your district’s board of trustees is responsible for adopting the budget that specifies how money will be used to run its public schools. Any other spending outside of the budget is not allowed without an amendment to the budget, which must also come from the board.

Public money must not be spent to benefit an individual or private entity if the expenditure is not serving a public purpose. The expenditure can be tested for constitutionality through a test that the Texas Supreme Court established. It includes three factors that a govermental body must ensure:

  • That the primary reason for the expenditure is to benefit public rather than private interests
  • That public control is retained while accomplishing the purpose for the expenditure
  • That a return benefit is also received by the political subdivision

If your district were to spend the money in a way that benefited an individual or private entity while accomplishing the primary purpose for the public schools, it is likely to be considered an appropriate use of public funds. However, this three-part test must be applied before the money is spent, and not after.

Other statutes may also affect the use of public funds in the Texas education system. Therefore, this information should not be interpreted as legal advice.