Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Poll: State Needs to Spend More on Public Education

A new University of Houston poll indicates that Texans believe the state needs to lower property taxes but spend more on public education. Texas currently funds about 36 percent of the cost of public education. More than 80 percent of 1,000 Texas voters surveyed online say the state should fund 50 percent or more of the cost.

To generate additional revenue, respondents suggested increased taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and the oil and gas industry. They also supported the legalization and taxing of recreational marijuana and gambling. Seventy-five percent opposed introducing a state income tax. Fifty percent opposed increasing the state sales tax (legislators are debating a proposal that would raise the state sales tax by 1 percent to fund a decrease in property taxes).

Read “80 percent of Texans say more state funds should go to schools” by Paul Cobler, San Antonio Express-News.

April 17, 2019

Bills would Put a Hold on High-Stakes Consequences of STAAR Tests

Research has recently come to light showing that reading passages on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR tests, are one to three years above grade level.

Mary Hardin-Baylor Education Professor Jodi Pilgrim, one author of a 2016 study, testified that the school trains its teachers to avoid reading material that’s written at “frustration level”—where students don’t know 90 percent of the words. “If a passage is written one to three grade levels above their grade, then you’re more than likely frustrating some of these students,” Pilgrim said. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath assured the committee the test is valid, reliable, and on grade level.

Lawmakers filed bills in response to the testimony they heard to put a hold on the high-stakes consequences of STAAR (school closings, graduation requirements) until an outside investigator confirms that the tests are on grade level. A bill amendment requiring the Texas Auditor to review the third-grade STAAR test was passed by the Texas House. STAAR test results are used to determine district and campus accountability ratings.

Read or listen to “Are the STAAR Tests Too Hard? Critics Rally for a Closer Look,” by Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio.

April 10, 2019

Editorial: Permanent School Fund Needs Oversight, Transparency

A new editorial in the San Antonio Express-News says that fixes to the state’s school finance system must also address how Texas’ Permanent School Fund—a public education endowment—is administered.

The fund has grown at a slower rate than comparable funds and paid out less in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past 20 years. An investigation also found the entities that administer the fund “less than forthcoming” about the investments made on behalf of Texas taxpayers. “The lack of transparency is troubling,” the editorial says.

The fund was created by Texas’ founders in 1854 as “a sacred trust” to forever support public education and is the largest fund of its type in the country. As state legislators prepare to invest more in public education, they’ll have to shift funds from other budget priorities, so earning as much as possible is critical. “…Steps must be taken to ensure Texas schoolchildren reap the maximum benefits,” the editorial states.

Read “Permanent School Fund needs increased oversight and transparency,” San Antonio Express-News.

April 8, 2019

Poster Lists Facts on Public Education in Texas

Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) has produced a printable poster that summarizes the current state of public education in Texas at a glance. It lists a few telling facts:

  • More than 70 percent of Texans believe there is not enough money spend on education
  • Eighty-five percent believe teachers should be paid more
  • Ninety-three percent believe taxpayer-funded programs must be academically and financially accountable and transparent

Check out What You Need to Know—Texas Public Education–2019 on the RYHT website.

April 3, 2019

Education Advocates Support Rep. Howard’s Charter School Transparency Amendment

TASB and other prominent education advocates issued a letter in support of Rep. Donna Howard’s floor amendment to Rider 58 to provide specificity about the numbers and characteristics of students who are expelled from, leave, or who win lottery admission and are not selected to attend an open enrollment charter school.

In 2016–17, “…43 percent of expelled students were charter school attendees, which is out of proportion compared to the overall percentage of Texas public education students that are enrolled in charters,” the letter reads. Advocates say additional information will help parents and policymakers make informed decisions for students.

Read “Education Advocates Support Rep. Howard’s Charter School Transparency Floor Amendment to Article III TEA Rider 58

March 28, 2019

Op-ed: Lawmakers Should Grab Chance to Fix School Finance

Former lawmaker and public education advocate Jimmie Don Aycock’s new op-ed recounts his frustrations with the Legislature’s failure to pass school finance reform during his time in the Texas House. School finance bills faced opposition not only from private school advocates, but also sometimes from varied groups of education advocates who didn’t think their interests were adequately addressed. “Unless their particular interest was taken care of, any proposal in the center was doomed…” Aycock observed.

Of this session, he says, “Once again, money is available. Once again, the public wants action. Most important of all, the children of Texas need an updated school finance system that addresses today’s reality.”

He notes that House Bill 3 is not perfect, but it is the best chance to improve school finance in years. “If you are a teacher, if you are an administrator, if you are a parent, if you are a business owner, if you are a home owner—HB 3 is our best opportunity to make significant progress in the complicated realm of school finance. Please don’t be part of a circular firing squad,” Aycock wrote.

Read “Lawmakers should grab this chance to fix school finance” by Jimmie Don Aycock, TribTalk.

March 26, 2019

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