Facts and insights about Texas public schools

Random header image... Refresh for more!

School Districts are Feeling the Pinch

For eight straight years, Conroe and Cypress-Fairbanks ISDs have been given the Texas Smart Schools Award for districts with prudent financial practices and high academic achievement.

But sound fiscal management hasn’t been enough to stave off looming deficits due to the state’s broken school finance system. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD will face a $50 million deficit next school year and Conroe ISD will face its first deficit in a decade within four years. “If we’ve been one of the most efficient districts in the state, and we’re facing this crisis, imagine what other districts are dealing with,” said Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Chief Financial Officer Stuart Snow.

One legislator went as far as suggesting that schools might need to seek donations from philanthropic organizations to gain additional revenue. The author notes that the current state of education funding “…is entirely the Legislature’s responsibility. We are here because they refuse to adequately fund schools, and because they use the increases in property valuations to fund the rest of the budget, while blaming local officials for their shortfalls and tax hikes.”

Read “Many more school districts are feeling the pinch,” by Charles Kuffner, Off the Kuff blog.

April 26, 2018

Texas Fails on School Finance

“Grades are in, and the state of Texas gets an F when it comes to adequately funding public education. It also gets an F on the related subject of surging property taxes,” a new commentary in the San Antonio Express-News reads.

It cites the budget crisis at North East ISD as the latest example of a broken system of school finance. The district, a large, well-run, suburban school system, will soon be considered property wealthy and subject to recapture even though 46 percent of its students receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Superintendent Brian Gottardy noted that it was his hope that the Legislature would fix things in 2017. “Instead of increasing funding to public education and changing the state’s formula, lawmakers continue to study the issue, even though the issue is crystal clear. The state hasn’t maintained its fair share,” the commentary reads.

Read “Texas gets an F on school finance” by Josh Brodesky, San Antonio Express-News.

April 23, 2018

When the State’s War on Public Education Hits Home

An editorial in the San Antonio Express-News highlights the plight of North East ISD, a San Antonio district that will have to pay the state millions as a “property rich” district for the first time in 2019. Becoming a Robin Hood district will result in budget cuts, eliminating 117 teaching positions, delaying expenses, and possibly raising local taxes to help balance the budget.

The problem, the editorial notes, is this: “…the state has done nothing to address its byzantine, antiquated, severely broken, but somehow constitutional, school finance system.” While the Texas Supreme Court stopped short of ordering the state to fix its school finance problems, it also didn’t give state leaders a free pass to do nothing, saying that Texas’ more than five million students deserve better than the current system.

Regarding the latest attempt to study the issue, the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, the editorial says that the proof will be in the pudding. It calls for increased funding for public schools and an end to the so-called “Robin Hood” system.

“The Texas Commission on Public School Finance is attempting to craft recommendations to fix this broken system. But if the past is prologue, lawmakers won’t act, continuing a legacy of failing millions of Texas schoolchildren,” the editorial reads.

Read “The state’s war on public education hits home” by the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board.

April 18, 2018

Wanted: State Leaders Who Support Public Education

An editorial in the Longview News-Journal imagines a time when the Texas Legislature works to make public education better, not attack it at every turn.

“Just a dream, we know, but it is also fun to imagine that not just the legislative branch of our government but those in the executive branch—governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and the rest—would do whatever they could to see that each of our state’s children can receive a good public education.

“After all, that requirement is right there in the state constitution,” the editorial reads.

The editorial focuses on “the latest assaults on school systems,” funding cuts to high-quality pre-k programs. “That has hundreds of districts…scrambling to continue meeting the programs’ requirements while funding is stripped.”

Read Editorial: Dreaming of state officials who care about education in the Longview News-Journal.

April 11, 2018

Editorial: Pressure Lawmakers to Support Public Schools

An editorial in the Victoria Advocate notes that for years, “Politicians have baffled taxpayers through misdirection with their funding formulas and dangerous rhetoric devaluing the importance of public education.” Over time, these words and actions have allowed legislators to slash the state’s share of education funding (and push more of the funding burden onto local taxpayers through property taxes).

With increasing student enrollment and state funding dropping more than 12 percent, per-pupil funding is less now than it was in 2008. Texas lawmakers have escaped a court mandate to fix school funding, though the justices did declare our system of funding schools broken and implored them to fix it. And fix it they should.

A new Texas A&M study shows that increased spending on public education matters. Professor Lori Taylor studied Kansas school funding and concluded spending more on public education improves student outcomes. Texas has the same problems as Kansas, though on a significantly larger scale. The editorial notes that Texas legislators have shown “…no political will to do right by the state’s students.”

Victoria School Trustee Tami Keeling told the commission studying public school funding that, “Public school academics, extra- and co-curricular activities and diversity shaped who I am today. I believe the system that served me well is worth my investment today. I believe in paying it forward like those who invested in public schools for me.”

Read “Pressure lawmakers to adequately support our schools” in the Victoria Advocate.

April 4, 2018

Invest in Schools to Retain Economic Edge

A commentary in the Dallas Morning News notes that when companies look to relocate or expand, they look for good local schools. “In a booming economy with low unemployment, the quality of education has become a major factor in corporate decisions to relocate and expand,” the commentary reads.

Texas ranks near the bottom in spending per public school student. Dallas business leaders are urging companies to help push for school finance reform in Austin to add clout and credibility to educators’ arguments and drive home the need for a top workforce.

Education expert Tom Luce told the state’s Commission on Public School Finance that academic progress has declined since 2011, when Texas legislators cut $5 billion in education spending. If Texas doesn’t think big when it comes to dealing with the adequacy and equity of public school finance, it won’t be a top choice for expanding employers. “Companies want to be in cities that are preparing for the future,” according to Gene DePrez, site selection expert at Global Innovation Partners.

Read “Will Texas invest in schools or lose its competitive edge?,” by Mitchell Schnurman, Dallas Morning News.

April 2, 2018

School Finance Commission Needs the Facts

You’d think the commission meeting to study the issue of school finance would find it relatively easy to get an answer to the question, “How much does it cost to adequately educate students to be ready for college, the military, or workforce?”

According to an editorial in the Houston Chronicle, “Since the cost of a modern education is likely to be more expensive than they’d want to pay, lawmakers have assembled a distinguished group of commissioners, only to blindfold them by withholding the facts.”

“Without this key information, these hearings are little more than a setup for a political decision, not one designed to meet the needs of students—or the needs of our state economy,” the editorial says.

“Our state must stop leaving behind so many of our students—and with them, our future,” the editorial states.

Read “Fixing school finance isn’t rocket surgery” in the Houston Chronicle.

March 26, 2018

Education Is a Winning Political Issue

An editorial by David Leonhardt says that there is a winning political issue hiding in plain sight: education.

There’s a high level of misinformation surrounding education in this country. The media coverage of K–12 schools gives a person the impression that they are always in crisis. Simultaneously, the cost of college (and debt incurred by many to earn a degree) has given higher education a black eye. “Whatever complaints people may have about their local school or college costs, most have no doubt that their children need a good education. People see it as the most reliable path to a good life, and they are right,” Leonhardt says.

The popularity of education offers politicians a giant opportunity: the chance to talk about something their voters care more about than any Twitter-happy politician or political scandal on the horizon.

Read “A Winning Political Issue Hiding in Plain Sight,” by David Leonhardt in The New York Times.

March 22, 2018

Public Schools Are Meeting Challenges of the Future

An editorial in the Fredericksburg Standard notes that these are not the easiest times for public education. That’s because state leaders unfairly label all schools as “struggling” based on the results of a few that are low-performing. “This should get the hackles up of every resident who sends their child to a public school and sees the sun-up to sun-down work done by administrators, teachers, coaches, and staff,” the author writes.

The characterization has caused some state legislators to attempt to divert tax dollars to support private or religious schools. Their efforts ignore the Texas Constitution, which calls for the support and maintenance of free public schools. “Our leaders seem to have lost the vision for the greater good where education is concerned and they are being influenced by agenda-driven groups,” the editorial states.

Read “Public Schools Are Society’s Foundation” by Ken Esten Cooke in the Fredricksburg Standard.

March 13, 2018

TEV Applauds Increased Voter Turnout

Texas Educators Vote (TEV) congratulated educators for turning out in record numbers to vote in Texas’ Primary Election. Voting increased more than 700,000 votes in this election compared to the 2014 midterm Primary Election—a 35 percent increase in civic engagement. “School districts across the state played an important part in the increase by working to develop a culture of voting and model civic engagement for students,” TEV’s post-election statement says.

Laura Yeager, director of the TEV project, said, “It is heartwarming to see the excitement and engagement of teachers, principals, superintendents, trustees, parents, and all citizens across the state exercising their role in our democracy and modeling civic engagement for our children.”

TEV encourages educators to remain engaged and vote in May run-off elections and the November General Election.

March 9, 2018