Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Business Leaders: Support Investment in Full-Day Pre-K

Recently 56 Texas business leaders sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and members of the Texas Legislature urging them to “…support an investment in early childhood education, which specifically includes investments in full-day prekindergarten.”

“We’re thrilled to see that the school finance bills invest in full-day pre-k. Now we just need to make sure that the Legislature gets this pre-k funding over the finish line,” said John Cullen, a partner at Capstar Partners, one of the letter’s senders.

Read “56 TX Biz Leaders Urge Full-Day Pre-K Funding” and the letter itself on the Texans Care for Children website.

March 22, 2019

HB 3 Responds to Public Education Needs

A new opinion piece posted on TribTalk by Jim Rice, Fort Bend ISD school trustee and vice president of the TASB Board of Directors, lauds leaders of the Texas House for House Bill 3, dubbed “The Texas Plan for Transformational School Finance Reform.” Testimony on the bill, which would infuse $9 billion in funding above enrollment growth over the next two years, was overwhelmingly positive.

“HB 3 makes a serious stab at addressing as many school finance problems as possible in a comprehensive approach to improving how Texas public schools are funded,” Rice notes. That includes reigning in property taxes, raising teacher pay, updating funding formulas, reducing recature payments, offering full-day pre-K to the neediest students, and increasing per-pupil funding.

Read “House Bill 3 deserves a sustained round of applause” by Jim Rice, TribTalk.

March 19, 2019

Editorial: Fix School Finance No Matter How Long It Takes

An editorial in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal notes the differences in the school finance plans the Texas House and Senate have proposed.

The House is ready to devote an additional $9 billion to public schools, allowing local officials to decide how to use new funds, including providing pay increases for staff. The Senate hasn’t set a clear dollar figure for its school finance plan but does devote a considerable amount of funding to a $5,000 across-the-board pay increase for teachers. It also includes outcomes-based funding, rewarding schools whose third graders perform well on standardized tests.

“The significant differences in philosophy and numbers means legislators have a lot to do the next few months,” the editorial reads.

“Each bill has appealing aspects, and now the chore becomes working together in a bicameral, bipartisan manner on behalf of the people of Texas who have made it abundantly clear school finance and property tax relief are priorities requiring real effort and real results—no matter how long it takes,” the editorial concludes.

Read “Our view: State must fix school finance no matter how long it takes” in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

March 18, 2019

NSBA Opposes New Federal Voucher Proposal

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recently released a statement strongly opposing the US Department of Education’s latest voucher proposal and urging Congress to reject the Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act and other programs that expand tuition tax credits for private schools.

“The proposal ignores the fundamental reality that most public school districts already offer students a wide range of choices and opportunities…School board officials support choice, and employ a lot of creative ideas to provide it, but sending tax dollars to schools that lack local supervision is not an appropriate use of taxpayer funds,” the statement reads.

“Unlike private schools receiving public dollars through voucher schemes, public schools remain fully accountable for the use of public funds under both state and federal laws,” the statement continues.

Read “NSBA Statement Opposing the US Secretary of Education’s Latest Federal Voucher Program” by Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA executive director.

March 14, 2019

Would Outcomes-Based Funding Cause the Rich to Get Richer?

Texas lawmakers seem to agree that public schools need additional funds but differ on how those funds should be allocated.

One school finance plan being discussed by the Texas Legislature would reward schools with additional funds when students excel. They view additional funds as a carrot for schools to improve performance. Others are concerned that passing such an incentive would just make already rich schools richer.

According to an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “…If Texas embraces a system that ties funding schools to student performance, it will be treading into territory where few have gone. And critics warn the model would simply lavish more money on schools that need it the least, while depriving poorer schools of more resources.”

Read “Would ‘rich get richer’ under proposal to tie Texas school funding to student performance?” by Rebekah Allen, Dallas Morning News.

March 12, 2019

Listen to TASB Talks: Lege Update

TASB has another way to help you keep up with news from the Texas Legislature. Listen to TASB Talks: Lege Update for weekly updates from Dax González, TASB Governmental Relations, on the latest from the Texas Legislature.

The first episode focuses on teacher pay raises, the property tax cap, and the upcoming school finance bill. Listen here.

March 8, 2019

TASB Statement Supporting House School Finance Proposal

TASB has released a statement in support of the school finance proposal from the Texas House, House Bill 3.

“TASB strongly supports Chairman Dan Huberty’s efforts to invest more resources in our students while maintaining the flexibility for local school districts to direct those resources to the kids who need them most. The infusion of $9 billion of new funds into our public schools for the direct benefit of Texas students is unprecedented, recognizes the state’s lagging support over the past decade, and underscores the state’s investment in the future,” the statement reads.

Read the entire statement.

March 6, 2019

Houston Business Leaders: Fix School Finance

A new white paper by a powerful Houston business group, the Greater Houston Partnership, details the challenges for employers trying to find and hire qualified people for jobs that require training beyond a high school diploma—the types of jobs that will increase in the 21st century. “The current funding system does not provide adequate or effective funding directed towards high quality initiatives that will improve educational outcomes,” the white paper says.

The group highlighted these problems:

  • A 2018 survey of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found that a shrinking labor market is the top concern. Finding enough qualified workers is already a problem.
  • Student preparation for college or a career is an issue. The outdated funding system doesn’t account for Texas’ diverse student population or the jobs that will Texas businesses will need them to fill.
  • The local burden for funding public schools is inordinate and unsustainable under the current school finance system.

Read “Why Houston Business Leaders Say It’s Time to Fix School Finance,” by Laura Isensee, Houston Public Media.

March 4, 2019

Correcting the Record: District Spending on Teacher Salaries

At Monday’s Senate Public Education Committee meeting, it was stated that only 35 percent of district budgets go to teacher pay.

That is an extremely misleading statement because it includes revenues from the interest and sinking (I&S) tax fund that can’t be used for instruction. State law requires school districts to use I&S money on bond payments for capital projects. Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rates are used to fund the daily operation of schools, including salaries for teachers.

When you consider the operational expenses of school districts and the breakdown of expenses, school districts spend around 47 percent of the money dedicated to instruction on teachers, with the second highest expenditure being support personnel and instructional materials (19 percent). By comparison, Central Administration expenditures only account for 3 percent of the total expenditures of school districts.

Read “Tracking the Traditional Public School Dollar” by Moak, Casey & Associates.

February 28, 2019

TASB Legislative Chair Speaks Out on Public Ed Funding

A potential boost to school funding is getting a lot of attention from state lawmakers this session, though legislators and local decision makers are not necessarily in agreement on how that should be done.

When a legislative leader asked Fort Bend ISD Trustee Jim Rice what he thought about a proposal that would provide $5,000 raises for teachers, he said, “…It’s not a good idea unless is sustainable. Who wants to get a $5,000 raise this year and then we’re going to take it away from them next year because there’s no money?” As first vice president of TASB’s Board of Directors and chair of the Legislative Committee, Rice is no novice when it comes to school finance.

“I hope that the Legislature is very careful when they come up with the new revenue stream, because when they constrain us like this, it really hampers our ability to meet our financial obligations and there’s a lot of unintended consequences,” he said.

Read “Texas Association of School Board legislative chair speaks out on public education funding” by Kristi Nix, Houston Chronicle.

February 27, 2019