When La Joya ISD spent over $20 million on a taxpayer-funded waterpark, Texans were rightfully outraged. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Texas Senate is taking action to make sure it never happens again.
This week, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) filed Senate Bill 1133, legislation to prevent school districts from having a business interest in an entity or real property associated with a recreational property, such as water parks, golf courses, or hotels.
The bill comes in response to the construction of a 90,000 square foot waterpark by the Rio Grande Valley’s La Joya ISD. The district is a “Robin Hood” recipient, with 93% of enrolled students being classified as “economically disadvantaged,” meaning it wasn’t just local taxpayers on the hook for the wasteful boondoggle.
“There is no fact or supposition of fact that the core operations of a Texas School District should involve owning and operating a water park,” said Bettencourt, adding, “Recently published press reports also indicate that the complex is operating at a loss and costing Texas taxpayers even more money!”
Though the legislation was just just filed on Tuesday, Bettencourt already has a bipartisan coalition behind the bill, including Republican State Sens. Donna Campbell (New Braunfels), Pat Fallon (Prosper), Bob Hall (Edgewood), and Bryan Hughes (Mineola), as well as Democrat State Sens. Chuy Hinojosa (McAllen) and Eddie Lucio (Brownsville).
“It’s a challenge meeting all the funding needs of educating our children,” said Hinojosa, who represents La Joya ISD in the Texas Senate. ”This is why we must find a way to set parameters around the use of taxpayers’ money to focus on spending the funds on teachers and students instead of on projects that are not essential to the mission of educating our children.”
Bettencourt added that ever-skyrocketing property tax bills necessitate this legislation now more than ever.
“Taxpayers all across the state are enduring rapidly increasing property tax bills and the fact that ‘Robin Hood’ monies are being used to build a water park and purchase a golf course by La Joya ISD shows a clear lack of focus on their top priority…educating our students,” said Bettencourt.