Category — Commentary
The Houston Chronicle ran a guest column today that calls for public schools to be run more efficiently. That’s a topic that Texas school districts have been actively working on for some time.
If you’ve been wondering about “efficiency” and how it relates to public education, the Texas Association of School Boards just printed this article in its Texas Lone Star magazine that touches on issues ranging from efficiency in school finance to best practices within school districts.
Back to the guest column in the Houston newspaper, it claims that only 65 percent of ninth graders graduate in four years to make the case that districts are not efficiently using taxpayer dollars. However, Grade 9 longitudinal data from the Texas Education Agency show that:
- 84.3 percent of the class of 2010 graduated;
- 7.2 percent continued in school the following year;
- 1.3 percent received a GED; and
- 7.3 percent dropped out.
This video from the Be Proud Texas campaign notes that Texas graduation rates, when broken down by ethnicity of students, rank highly when compared to similar student populations across the country.
May 16, 2012 No Comments
In this guest column for The San Antonio Express-News, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs writes:
In Texas over the past decade, spending on public education has risen more than three times as fast as enrollment.
May 9, 2012 No Comments
Also from the Washington Post article referenced Wednesday:
The very strongest educational data available shows a huge correlation between poverty and student achievement. Poverty impacts student achievement in many ways. As unemployment takes hold on a community, and more families lack food security, housing and health care, the impact is felt in the classroom. Students become more transient, because their housing is unstable. They do not have a place to do homework, because they are crashing on someone’s couch. They come to school late because they do not have transportation any more. They eat corn chips for breakfast because they do not have someone helping them get ready for school. And they worry! They are preoccupied with fear and insecurity, and that makes it hard to focus on academics.
This is especially important in Texas where the number of economically disadvantaged students continues to grow.
Find the whole article here.
March 23, 2012 No Comments
This week the Texas Observer provided a contextual look at Texas school finance struggles over the past decades. With the title “We’re Not Gonna Take It: Texas’ starving school districts lawyer up for (another) epic battle for survival,” the article traces the long story of public school funding.
Now, just seven years after the Texas Supreme Court last ruled the system unconstitutional, more than half the school districts in the state have sued again. Together, the plaintiffs in the four separate suits account for more than 60 percent of the students in Texas public schools. Sequels usually promise to be bigger, better, and badder than before, and this case is no different. Get ready for the school finance fight of the century.
Find the whole article here.
February 3, 2012 No Comments
A recent article titled “Pay it Forward” notes that those of us who attended public schools did so because “someone else — many someone elses — paid the dollars to create that opportunity.” Have we as a society lost that unselfish desire to consider the “common good?”
Read the article here.
January 6, 2012 No Comments
An interesting article in yesterday’s Washington Post encourages readers to step back and remember why Americans support public schools:
. . .Polls show that the American people value public education.
But the current political climate is downright hostile to public education. Teachers are viewed as underperforming, administrators as overpaid and school boards as overly contentious if not dysfunctional. In certain cases, the criticism might have merit.
But overall, schools and school boards do vital work. This is what democracy looks like.
Political scientist Benjamin Barber has argued that our public schools don’t merely serve the public but actually create the public: “Public schools are not merely schools for the public, but schools of publicness: institutions where we learn what it means to be a public and start down the road toward common national and civic identity. . .”
Read the whole article here.
October 4, 2011 No Comments
Most back-to-school news stories this year are very similar to back-to-school stories we read every year. Teachers are ready. Buses are running. Students are settling into routine.
This year, however, there is a good bit of talk about school funding and how it affects the district, the school, the classroom. There are some changes in what parents’ must pay. There are some changes in what is available for students. Some school personnel are asked to shoulder more duties.
And alongside those reports, there are news stories about local businesses stepping up to help schools. A restaurant in central Texas shares a percentage of sales with the local school district. A local supplier in south Texas donates backpacks.
Despite their own difficult economic situations, local businesses in all corners of the state are offering to help their schools get through the funding crisis.
Kudos to business leaders who help fill the gap!
September 7, 2011 No Comments
Recently, The New York Times carried an article titled, “When Schools Depend on Handouts.”
Here is part of what it said:
Although praiseworthy as a matter of personal philanthropy, the donation by the mayor and the others, whose names were not disclosed, is highly distressing as a matter of public policy. It is disgraceful that essential components of our public education system now depend on the charitable impulses of wealthy citizens. . .
. . . Most state constitutions, in fact, guarantee all students a sound, basic public education. These constitutional rights cannot be put on hold, even in tough times. It is unconstitutional to call on parents to pay for textbooks and lab fees for required courses. And art, music, sports, basic educational support services and many extracurricular activities that promote learning, creativity and character are not luxuries; they, too, are essential features of a sound, basic education.
California acknowledged as much last December when it settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging illegal school fees. Officials ordered school districts to halt the practice and to refund the fee money they had collected. While schools in California now must eliminate textbook and activity fees, affluent children whose parents can afford to reinstate teaching positions will continue to have more educational opportunities than their poorer counterparts.
A number of judges have begun to respond to the devastation in state education financing: in May, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature to reinstate $500 million in funds for poor urban districts, and last month, a North Carolina judge blocked cuts that would have decimated financing for a statewide preschool program.
The courts are doing their job, but litigation is time-consuming and expensive. Politicians have a constitutional obligation to protect public education. They need to ensure that adequate public funds are available, and the people need to hold them accountable for doing so.
Read the whole article here.
August 29, 2011 No Comments
Survey the back-to-school articles in various Texas newspapers, and you will see the initial impact of cuts in school funding by the 82nd Legislature.
Some districts report cutting positions. Some districts have canceled plans to attend some sports tournaments and band contests. Some have canceled their teacher convocations.
Other districts report “mothballing” schools, a term for not opening newly constructed facilities. Many districts report using reserves to make ends meet. Some are beginning to talk about tax increases and elections.
Budget-cutting looks different from one district to the next, but one consistent theme in various parts of the state is that the next year (2012-13) will be even more difficult for those tasked with developing the budget.
August 16, 2011 No Comments
Inequity is one of the enduring frustrations with the state funding of Texas public schools. Texas educator Jerry Burkett writes about the situation in his latest blog:
Under the current Texas school funding system of formulas, my child is worth more than yours.
When he starts school next fall, he will be worth $6,830 annually to Northwest ISD, which is an average based on a complicated formula known as WADA (Weighted Average Daily Attendance).
WADA is calculated by taking the number of students in the district and multiplying that number by weights to establish funding for children in the district that require more funds to educate. These weights are applied to students who are labeled as gifted and talented, special education, or economically disadvantaged.
We live less than two miles from the neighboring school district of Keller ISD. If we decided to move and send our son to Keller ISD, he would only be worth $5,039. Both school districts hold the same school tax rate of $1.04 per $100 home valuation*. So how is it that two neighboring districts with similar home values and student demographics receive a near $1,800 disparity per child?
Read the whole article at mykid.
August 2, 2011 No Comments