Weatherford Democrat

January 24, 2013

State funding once again an issue

Weatherford Democrat

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of opinion articles concerning education funding and related issues submitted jointly by the superintendents and school board presidents named at the bottom of the article.

Another legislative session is upon us, and what should public schools expect this time around?

Well, let’s see. If the past is any indication, maybe we should once again prepare for the worst. Superintendents just don’t understand how the most valuable resource in this state continues to be looked upon as a liability line in the state budget.

Public schools are the most important factor in a successful future for Texas. Ask any young parent how important it is that their children receive a good education. Ask any grandparent how important it is for their grandchildren to be educated in today’s world.

What this state has done to public education since 2006 is embarrassing to say the least. Currently, our state ranks 47th in spending per student in our United States. Our teachers are paid better than teachers in 13 states. We think that means they rank about 37th in the U.S. In fact, the average teacher salary in Texas has decreased for the last two years, mainly due to a $5.4 billion dollar cut in public school funding over the current biennium.

As one of the richest states in the union, we spend as little as possible on our children’s futures. It just doesn’t make sense. The state increases testing and the rigors of the test and gives the schools less money to educate our students. At the same time, the state wants our schools to emphasize more career and technology oriented classes but doesn’t adequately fund those programs.

The state calls on professional witnesses to testify that “money doesn’t matter.” These “experts” reject the relationship between the quality of education and the rising costs of adequate instruction, even though numerous studies and plain common sense tells us that students need supplies and technology to be prepared to meet their futures. How could anyone say that if provided more money, a school could not recruit more highly qualified teachers, provide more technology for students, purchase more technical trades equipment, renovate school environments providing safer and more learner friendly settings for instruction, and on and on. The State just does not want to spend the money.

To the school superintendents across the state of Texas, public school funding is known to be inequitable and inadequate.

If we want our students to be “world class students,” should we not provide the funding to reach that goal? Being ranked 47th out of 50 states is hardly a commitment to do so. In our state, our young people take 35 state exams before graduation. No other country, or state for that matter, requires such testing. In our state, one school district can be funded under $5,000 per student for education and another school district can receive over $12,000 per student. Is this equity? Is this fairness? This should not be acceptable to anyone, especially political officials elected to represent the children of Texas. As for adequacy, can legislators continually pass on the costs of unfunded mandates to our schools and at the same time cut public school funding?

At a school conference in San Antonio recently, a large group of educators were told that the Rainy Day Fund will have a much larger surplus than expected. Then we were told that the Governor’s office and the Comptroller’s office were playing that number down for political reasons. We were also told that we could probably expect to see new enrollment growth to be funded. Enough with politics and political agendas meant to keep professional politicians in office. Our children need good representation, and Texas government needs to invest in the education of a workforce that can compete in a global marketplace.

Standing together in a unified voice,

Aledo ISD – Dan Manning, superintendent; Bobby J. Rigues, board president

Azle ISD – Dr. Ray Lea, superintendent; Bill Lane, board president

Brock ISD – Richard Tedder, superintendent; Bill Cooper, board president

Garner ISD – Marion Ferguson, superintendent; Michael Collins, board president

Millsap ISD – Dr. David Belding, superintendent; Dr. Dene Herbel, board president

Paradise ISD – Monty Chapman, superintendent; Homer Mundy, board president

Peaster ISD –Matt Adams, superintendent; Scott Johnson, board president

Poolville ISD – Jimmie Dobbs, superintendent; Lynn Duvall, board president

Santo ISD – Greg Gilbert, superintendent; Randy Parker, board president

Springtown ISD – Mike Kelley, superintendent; Amy Walker, board president

Weatherford ISD – Dr. Jeffrey M. Hanks, superintendent; Charlie Martinez, board president