Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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For Many Districts, the Great Recession Never Ended

A new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research and policy institute, points out that for many school districts, the Great Recession never ended. Using state budget documents and U.S. Census Bureau data (adjusted for inflation), it found that state and local spending per pupil effectively declined in 39 states between 2008 and 2014.

Texas’ inflation-adjusted per-pupil funding is nearly 16 percent lower than 2008 funding. At the same time, Texas is one of the states being asked to educate a growing number of students. Read the full story on the NPREd Website.

October 26, 2016

SBOE’s Ratliff Sounds Warning about Education Savings Accounts

In a recent speech to TASB’s Delegate Assembly entitled “Poking the Bear,” Thomas Ratliff, an outgoing member of the State Board of Education, took on school choice and encouraged attendees to be advocates for public schools.

School choice advocates have promised a legislative battle in the next session and are already lobbying for education savings accounts. These accounts, paid for with public funds, could be used by parents to send their kids to private school or home school them.

Ratliff outlined a few problems with that idea:

  • Texas’ public schools do a better job than charter schools of educating students by virtually every measure.
  • Private and home schools aren’t required to meet the state’s accountability standards for education, so more children would be at risk of getting a substandard education.
  • Such a law would result in “…one of the largest entitlement programs in state history” because of the very small number of Texas residents who actually fully fund their child’s education through property and sales taxes. The disproportion has the potential to decimate the funding available to local school districts.

You can view the video of Ratliff’s speech on TASB’s Website.

October 19, 2016

Aycock Examines the Challenges of Funding Public Education in Texas

In 1985, Jimmie Don Aycock was frustrated with Texas’ system for funding public education. He decided he had to do something about it, so he ran for a seat on his local school board.

More than 30 years later, Aycock, now a member of the Texas House of Representatives (R–Killeen), is still frustrated about public education funding. He led an unsuccessful effort to overhaul it in the last session of the Texas Legislature.

In his piece, “Why it’s hard to fund public education in Texas,” in the Texas Tribune, Aycock clearly outlines the problem: schools are already underfunded and the current “Robin Hood” school finance system is going to go from bad to worse soon. A new plan to fund public education in Texas can’t come soon enough. After offering his thoughts on some ideas legislators could consider, he notes, “There are solutions, just no easy ones.” Read the full article in TribTalk.

October 12, 2016

Private School Vouchers Are Not a Civil Right

The Coalition for Public Schools notes that politicians are sometimes prone to exaggeration. This seems to be the case with recent statement that “school choice”—in the form of private school vouchers—is a civil rights issue.

The latest school choice idea in Texas is education savings accounts that would allow students to take their allotment of public education dollars and use them elsewhere. This would drain public school districts of the funds needed to provide basic services. What it wouldn’t do is ensure that students leaving public schools get a quality education. Private schools aren’t required to meet the state’s accountability standards.

Read more in the Austin American-Statesman.

October 6, 2016

TEA Gives School Leaders High Marks for Fiscal Responsibility

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently released preliminary financial accountability ratings for 1,200 Texas school districts and charters. Nearly 98 percent of all Texas school districts and charters earned the highest preliminary rating possible for the 2015–16 school year.

The School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) was designed to encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes. TEA reviews the audited financial reports from all districts and charters to do its ratings.

Read the full press release.

September 29, 2016

School Funding Top Concern in PDK/Gallup Poll

For the 15th consecutive year, Americans say lack of funding is the number-one problem confronting local schools, according to the recent PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Respondents also continued a decades-long trend of giving good marks to their local schools, with 48 percent rating them an “A” or “B.” Parents who rate their schools an “A” or “B” report that the schools communicate more effectively with them.

The public disagrees on what they view as the main focus of public education. PDK found 45 percent of respondents believe the goal should be preparing students academically, while 25 percent feel the focus should be on preparing students for work and 26 percent on preparing them to be good citizens.

Americans are fairly evenly split on many questions related to educational standards: 45 percent say changes in educational standards are for the better, while 51 percent say the changes have made things worse. Fewer than half of Americans (46 percent) say the educational standards in their public schools are about right, and 43 percent say expectations for students are too low.

Since 1969, the PDK/Gallup Poll has been a respected and independent voice reporting on public opinion about public education in the United States. The complete report and highlights are available on the PDK Website.

September 26, 2016

Are Education Savings Accounts the Equivalent of Vouchers?

If you ask Texas public school supporters, they are, and they would divert money from already cash-strapped school districts to private schools without the same level of accountability.

A plan to move to education savings accounts is gaining support among conservative legislators. It would allow students to use their account to pay for private schools, tutors, home-school curriculum, or college credit courses.

Read “Education savings accounts same as vouchers, critics say,” by Julie Chang (Austin American-Statesman) to learn more.

September 15, 2016

A New School Year Brought Transformation for Smith Elementary

This back-to-school story, Grit and Grace—Secret Ingredients for School Transformation by Raise Your Hand Texas, focuses on the challenges of transforming Cedric C. Smith Elementary School in Magnolia ISD. The school suffered from a bad reputation brought on by poor academic performance and the stagnant culture of the school’s staff.

When Principal Letty Roman came on board, it was close to the start of the school year, but she was committed to changing the status quo. She met with some resistance, but her work, along with that of the Smith Elementary staff, eventually helped the school earn the most academic distinctions of any school in Magnolia ISD.

The mission of Raise Your Hand Texas is to strengthen and improve public schools for all Texas students.

August 24, 2016

Texas Public School Leaders Make Sound Strategic and Fiscal Decisions

In Misconceptions: Schools Don’t Spend Wisely, the nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas tackled the common misconception that public schools don’t do a good job of managing public funds.

The fact is, all Texas districts have to compensate educators and other personnel (and that’s a big expense). They also spend a significant portion of their funding on nonnegotiable district operations (food service and transportation, to name a couple). How much is left for districts to spend on their own local initiatives and programs? Read the story to get some perspective on what  percentage of district spending is discretionary and what districts do with those funds.

The mission of Raise Your Hand Texas is to strengthen and improve public schools for all Texas students.

August 4, 2016

STAAR Passing Rates Rise for Students in Grades 3–8

Following four years of stagnant test scores, Texas students in grades 3–8 had higher passing rates on 13 of 17 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams based on 2015 passing standards. Higher passing standards were put in place in 2016.

“Student success on STAAR is generally up this year when compared to last year’s standards, which reflects the day-in, day-out hard work of teachers in the classroom throughout our state,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.

TEA has posted the results.

July 20, 2016