Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Economist Perryman Weighs In on Upcoming School Choice Battle

In “School choice could be helpful or a sorry charade,” Economist Ray Perryman provides his take on school choice, which is shaping up to be a major focus of the coming session of the Texas Legislature.

Most noteworthy is Perryman’s conclusion on vouchers:

“…the plans would likely have the effect of reducing educational funding and quality in the public school system, which must provide opportunities for the vast majority of Texas children. Competition to improve an excellent system is laudatory; competition as a code word to further deteriorate a chronically underfunded system that is leaving our future workforce behind is not.”

Perryman’s commentary appears in the Waco Tribune.

November 29, 2016

Equity Center calls for a fresh start on school finance

When the Texas Supreme Court failed to require legislators to fix Texas’ system for funding public schools, schools and legislators lost, according to Equity Center Executive Director Wayne Pierce. Legislators will be under pressure to fix the way public schools are funded in the next legislative session but will no doubt find it difficult to make changes that put them at odds with some portion of the schools they represent.

Pierce contends that the first step should be examining the current system by stripping off all the temporary funding fixes that have been applied over the years to get back to the basic, cost-based formula underneath it all. “You can’t fix a broken system if your first priority is to keep everything that’s broken,” Pierce notes.

Read his commentary, “On school financing, start from scratch,” in the San Antonio Express-News.

November 21, 2016

Texas Schools on the Edge of Fiscal Cliff without Funding Fix

One hundred and seventy-six Texas school districts will lose state aid if lawmakers fail to fix state public education funding.

The latest school funding crisis started in 2006, when legislators slashed property taxes and offered Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) to ensure that districts could retain their teachers and programs. In 2011, Texas faced a state budget shortfall, causing legislators to cut $5.4 billion in school funding and repeal ASATR in September of 2017. Without legislative action, the money guaranteed to districts to replace property taxes will vanish soon.

Midway ISD Superintendent George Kazanas said that his district stands to lose up to $1.5 million. “The system has become archaic and is no longer, as a whole across Texas, meeting the needs of our kids,” Kazanas said.

Read “Texas schools stand on the edge of a fiscal cliff” on the KCEN Website.

November 10, 2016

Editorial: “GOP Leaders Should Move Off Vouchers, Focus on Improving Public Schools”

When a new legislative session is on the horizon, you can count on a fresh set of calls for voucher programs (or their equivalent by another name). This time around is no different.

In a recent editorial, the Dallas Morning News urged lawmakers to focus on fixing the Texas’ complicated funding system for public education rather than creating new voucher programs. It contends that voucher programs “…would divert scarce taxpayer dollars from already struggling public schools and do nothing to help improve them.” It adds that the latest proposal, education savings accounts, would decimate public schools and diminish the quality of education for the students that remain.

Read “GOP leaders should move off vouchers, focus on improving public schools” in the Dallas Morning News.

November 2, 2016

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