The extent of public commitment to use its resources to fund the services and programs it deems essential to community
well-being. The companion website for this text has an Excel spreadsheet resource that displays all the
counties in Texas with a wealth of information that will help you better understand capacity and effort.
More precisely, fiscal effort measures how much a locality, state, or nation spends of its resources in
relation to capacity—or its ability to pay.12 Measuring capacity is a good place to start examining the wealth of
a nation, state, or locality. The relative effort of that spending—the degree of exertion or fiscal struggle a
community experiences as it commits its resources for education—tells a much more robust story about what people value.
Communities have varying levels of fiscal capacity and commit varying levels of fiscal effort to fund their
public educational programs and facilities. For example, poorer school districts (low capacity) may spend a greater share of their wealth on education (high effort) whereas more affluent school districts (high capacity)
may spend relatively little (low effort) to support their schools to achieve the same or higher levels of services
(and outcomes) for their children.
Localities, states, and nations pose an array of thorny questions to help determine their amount of fiscal
effort in relation to their wealth. For example: Is it right for the state to determine a minimum local effort that is required before a community is eligible to receive state funds? Can
and should states “cap” local contributions to education—in effect saying to the locality that if it levies additional taxes, those monies must go back to the state to raise the “floor” of educational opportunity for other localities’
children? Is it right for the federal government to establish high academic standards that all students must meet regardless of a locality’s capacity or effort—even if the state provides insufficient funding for education? These are complex questions whose answers bear heavily on the educational quality a locality’s and state’s students will receive.