Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Education Is a Winning Political Issue

An editorial by David Leonhardt says that there is a winning political issue hiding in plain sight: education.

There’s a high level of misinformation surrounding education in this country. The media coverage of K–12 schools gives a person the impression that they are always in crisis. Simultaneously, the cost of college (and debt incurred by many to earn a degree) has given higher education a black eye. “Whatever complaints people may have about their local school or college costs, most have no doubt that their children need a good education. People see it as the most reliable path to a good life, and they are right,” Leonhardt says.

The popularity of education offers politicians a giant opportunity: the chance to talk about something their voters care more about than any Twitter-happy politician or political scandal on the horizon.

Read “A Winning Political Issue Hiding in Plain Sight,” by David Leonhardt in The New York Times.

March 22, 2018

Public Schools Are Meeting Challenges of the Future

An editorial in the Fredericksburg Standard notes that these are not the easiest times for public education. That’s because state leaders unfairly label all schools as “struggling” based on the results of a few that are low-performing. “This should get the hackles up of every resident who sends their child to a public school and sees the sun-up to sun-down work done by administrators, teachers, coaches, and staff,” the author writes.

The characterization has caused some state legislators to attempt to divert tax dollars to support private or religious schools. Their efforts ignore the Texas Constitution, which calls for the support and maintenance of free public schools. “Our leaders seem to have lost the vision for the greater good where education is concerned and they are being influenced by agenda-driven groups,” the editorial states.

Read “Public Schools Are Society’s Foundation” by Ken Esten Cooke in the Fredricksburg Standard.

March 13, 2018

TEV Applauds Increased Voter Turnout

Texas Educators Vote (TEV) congratulated educators for turning out in record numbers to vote in Texas’ Primary Election. Voting increased more than 700,000 votes in this election compared to the 2014 midterm Primary Election—a 35 percent increase in civic engagement. “School districts across the state played an important part in the increase by working to develop a culture of voting and model civic engagement for students,” TEV’s post-election statement says.

Laura Yeager, director of the TEV project, said, “It is heartwarming to see the excitement and engagement of teachers, principals, superintendents, trustees, parents, and all citizens across the state exercising their role in our democracy and modeling civic engagement for our children.”

TEV encourages educators to remain engaged and vote in May run-off elections and the November General Election.

March 9, 2018

Property Taxes Increase but Public Schools Still Get Less

When the state pays less for schools, each dollar that you pay in higher local property taxes counts for less.

Ellen Williams, an Austin attorney and lobbyist, wrote the following: “The Texas Commission on Public School Finance should review how drastically reduced state funding for school districts creates pass-through property tax hikes whose value benefits the state budget rather than five million children in Texas school districts.”

The value of increased property taxes doesn’t go to your local district or even to other, less property-wealthy districts. Your higher local tax dollars paid are, in effect, worth less, with a significant portion funding the state budget and state charter schools.

Read “You are paying more property taxes, but schools are still getting less,” by Ellen Williams, Dallas Morning News.

March 7, 2018

Business Leaders Want Legislators to Fund Education

In 2019, Texas business leaders want state legislators to ditch divisive issues like the transgender bathroom bill and focus on issues that will promote economic growth and job creation. A new survey conducted by the Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi Chambers of Commerce indicates that business leaders want the state to invest more in education and transportation to meet the needs of Texans for the next 20 to 30 years.

The quality of the education Texas students receive determines how prepared they are for the workforce. “One thing that we know universally is that employers and companies that are looking to come to Texas or expand in Texas are looking at our workforce,” said Priscilla Camacho, senior vice president of public policy for the Dallas Regional Chamber. Allocating additional state funds for public schools is one way to improve workforce readiness in Texas.

Read “Business leaders: Flush ‘bathroom bill,’ fund education to lure more workers and companies to Texas” in the Austin Business Journal.

March 5, 2018

Teaching the Vote

A commentary by Richard Stone in the Taylor Press outlines the state’s voter turnout problem well. Even in presidential election years, Texas ranks among the states with the lowest voter turnout. In nonpresidential election years, the problem is significantly worse.

The state also has plenty of serious issues to address, with public education near the top of the list. With barely a handful of people voting, the public’s education interests—one of them being that schools get the state funding they need—are often not well-represented. Despite the pro-education talk from legislators, the state’s share of public school funding has eroded over the last decade, going from 45 percent to around 38 percent.

Stone calls on educators to teach students to vote by voting themselves, noting that teachers often model the behaviors they want students to emulate. “…If kids see that teachers are engaged and vote, they are more likely to become engaged and actually vote,” Stone said. With 350,000 educators in Texas, instilling a “culture of voting” could make a difference for public schools.

Read “The Ragged Edge: Let’s teach ’em to vote,” by Richard Stone in the Taylor Press.

March 1, 2018

TASB Memo Answers Questions on Promoting Voting

TASB Legal Services has released a memo on the attorney general opinion on the use of public funds to promote a culture of voting.

The memo states that as long as districts are not using public funds to campaign for a specific candidate, political party, or measure, school district resources can be used to urge students, staff, and parents to vote.

February 24, 2018

End the Fiscal Shell Games with School Funding

A Houston Chronicle editorial has called for the Texas Legislature to “get serious about ending diversions across the board and stop relying on the rise in local property taxes to help lawmakers fund matters other than education.”

The editorial notes that “property wealthy” school districts send any increase in property taxes they collect to the state. The state’s “sleight of hand” is on the back end, when it sends schools less money from the General Revenue fund. “In effect, our local property tax revenues benefit the state’s bottom line, not public schools,” it reads.

“It’s easier for state officials to claim they have not voted for a new tax by instead relying on local collections to bolster state coffers. Let us be clear: That dog no longer hunts,” it reads.

Read “Fiscal shell games” in the Houston Chronicle.

February 14, 2018

Texas Educators Should Model, Teach Voting

Haskell CISD Superintendent Bill Alcorn believes that having engaged and voting citizens is the best solution to the challenges Texas faces.

So much so that Haskell CISD trustees have encouraged employees to make voting a habit. “Too few Texans take this civic responsibility seriously, and as a result, often less than 10 percent of our voting population is making decisions about who represents us,” Alcorn said.

“Our school board has only asked our employees to register to vote, learn about the issues and candidates so they can make an informed decision, and then vote,” Alcorn said. When students and others in the community see educators voting, that action can have a greater impact, encouraging others to vote and highlighting the importance of voting.

Efforts to encourage educators to vote have recently come under scrutiny by some. Alcorn notes that those efforts should be applauded, not criticized.

Read “Texas educators should be teaching students to vote” by Bill Alcorn in TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune.

February 6, 2018

Property Tax Relief Must Be Tied to Increased School Funding

An editorial in the San Antonio Express-News says a new plan to lower property taxes is unlikely to get the predicted results because it doesn’t include concrete steps to fund public schools, the largest driver of increasing property tax costs. The plan is worse than a similar plan from the last legislative session because the school finance remedy it lays out is “vague and inadequate.”

The editorial maintains that the plan is a way of controlling school district spending without adequately improving state spending. And while it forbids new state mandates, it’s silent on existing mandates.

Regarding funding, the plan says the state should “be prepared to increase its share to the extent necessary to ensure that public schools have access to the funding they need.” However, using history as a guide, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that the state won’t be up to the task. “If it had, your property taxes would be much lower,” the editorial reads.

Read “Property tax relief is directly tied to school funding,” by the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board.

January 30, 2018