The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Texas School Finance

Dr. John Folks, superintendent of the fourth-largest school district in Texas, recently testified before the State legislature on the topic of school finance. He recently published a transcript of his testimony. Here are a few highlights:

"Northside is fortunate to have enjoyed relatively stable finances over the past several years. This is because of several very difficult decisions District leaders made to keep our finances sound when we could not afford to wait for the Legislature to take action on school finance following the West Orange-Cove ruling. In 2003-04, salaries were frozen and the budget was cut to save $22.7 million. Then, in 2004-05, block scheduling was ended at secondary schools to save $15 million. Today, those cuts add up to $180 million in savings, or costs that we have avoided. Making those cuts was not in the best interests of our staff or students – it was a financial decision.
"There is no logic applied to how a district’s target revenue is set, and one school district’s target revenue could differ from another’s by more than $2,000 per student. The formula that is used to figure out a district’s target revenue is very complex and confusing. In looking at large districts across the state, Northside fared better than some, but there are still many districts that have a target revenue figure higher than ours. If, for example, NISD had the target revenue of neighboring North East ISD, we would collect $21.2 million in additional funding annually. Or, if we had Austin’s target revenue, we’d be getting more than $67 million in additional funding. Why are some school districts expected to make do with less?
"As revenue from local property taxes increases, the less state funding school districts receive. In other words, it’s a wash, and Northside doesn’t benefit at all from the healthy economy it helps to generate.
"Northside ISD has spent approximately $1 million on mandates the 80th Legislature voted into law but failed to fund. These include: the bi-annual bus evacuation trainings, the physical fitness evaluations, and automatic external defibrillators for each campus, to mention a few. There also are new academic requirements such as the “4 x 4,” that will require us to shoulder the cost of hiring additional science teachers, improving science labs, and providing staff development."

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