Leon|Alcala, PLLC

Texas was one of the big winners of the pandemic economy, recovering its lost jobs faster than most and luring tens of thousands of workers and businesses from other states. Its job growth has regularly surpassed the nation’s, usually by a healthy margin. But this year’s edge turns out to be not as great as advertised, not after the numbers were revised and benchmarked by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. That has implications for 2023, suggesting that Texas doesn’t have special immunity from broader economic threats. “We’re not protected from a downshift in the U.S. economy,” said Luis Torres, senior business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “We don’t have the extra buffer that we thought.” Monthly jobs reports have shown employment growing over 50% faster in Texas than the U.S. overall. But after revisions, including a major adjustment from a second quarter census of employment and wages, the gap between Texas and the nation was just 0.3 percentage points this year. “We’re not as cool as we thought we were,” Torres said. view article arw

Anthony, a fifth grader at Parmer Lane Elementary, stood at the front of his school’s cafeteria on Tuesday night, microphone in hand. He told a packed house why the school, which he's attended since the third grade, is special to him. “All the other schools I’ve been through in Dallas, Irving, Addison and also Houston, I have not been able to fit in,” he said. "And I feel like at this school, I have been able to fit in very well with my friends.” view article arw

Texas House and Senate leaders on Wednesday released their respective chambers’ new preliminary state budget bills for the 2024-25 biennium, with each proposing to shell out an unprecedented $130.1 billion in general revenue at a time when the state is awash in more cash than the state constitution will allow lawmakers to spend. The proposals, which are similar in totals but differ in some of the details, appear to leave on the table more than $50 billion in available funds at a time when the state has a total of $188.2 billion in funds available for spending over the next cycle — including a historic $32.7 billion cash balance. Both propose to spend nearly $289 billion in state and federal funds. Neither bill busts the state’s statutory or constitutional spending limit, budget leaders said, nor do they appear to dip into the state’s rainy day fund. The House and Senate bills both include $15 billion for property tax relief, $1.8 billion for state employee pay raises and $4.6 billion for the governor’s border security program, Operation Lone Star. view article arw

Fitch Ratings has assigned a 'AA+' rating to Lake Travis Independent School District, TX's (the district) $300 million unlimited tax (ULT) school building bonds, series 2023. view article arw

Austin ISD’s Chief Financial Officer Ed Ramos told school board members Thursday that compensation is the number one priority for the district’s 2023-2024 budget. “Hiring teachers and keeping them in the district is a challenge not only for Austin ISD, but for districts across the state,” he said.  Austin ISD’s goal is to raise classroom teacher pay by at least 5%. Ramos said the increase is key to compete with surrounding Central Texas school districts. He told AISD trustees that while the district salaries are competitive for teachers with zero to five years of experience, salaries for veteran teachers are lagging. He is especially focused on getting Austin ISD’s pay on par with Hays CISD, one of the highest paying districts in the area. view article arw

AUSTIN, Texas — Educators are eyeing the happenings of the 88th Texas legislative session cautiously and optimistically, as bills surrounding public education have been filed and have the potential to lift some burden off their career field. Among those is the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), the biggest teachers union in Texas, and the state affiliate of the National Education Association. TSTA President Ovidia Molina said she wants to see the state put some of its multibillion-dollar budget surplus toward funding public education. The state has an $32.7 billion bonus surplus going into this regular legislative session. view article arw

Austin ISD’s Chief Financial Officer Ed Ramos told school board members Thursday that compensation is the number one priority for the district’s 2023-2024 budget. “Hiring teachers and keeping them in the district is a challenge not only for Austin ISD, but for districts across the state,” he said. view article arw

Georgetown ISD superintendent Fred Brent said the dozens of district job openings are “not normal,” as the district struggles to keep schools staffed. Brent said the issue is the result of many teachers leaving the profession during the pandemic, and also a lack of funding coming from the state legislature. Dr. Brent talked with KXAN about staffing, fentanyl, security, student achievement, and more as part of our superintendent series. view article arw

During a triumphant 2019 ceremony at Parmer Lane Elementary in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott sat on a small stage in front of a large Texas flag as he signed a massive overhaul of the state’s public school finance system. The new legislation injected $6.5 billion into public education spending, plus about $5.1 billion devoted to lowering Texans’ property tax bills. It included raising the total amount the state gives schools per student by about 20%, setting aside funds for teacher raises and reducing the amount of money wealthy districts would have to send to poorer ones under the state’s recapture program, informally known as “Robin Hood.” “You could not overstate the magnitude of the law that I’m about to sign because this is a monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas,” said Abbott, flanked by about a dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers. “This one law does more to advance education in Texas than any law I have seen in my adult lifetime.”    (12) view article arw

A battle is brewing between school districts that could affect property taxes and educational opportunities for Valley children. Several local districts, including Edinburg's, are now challenging the way South Texas Independent School District collects money. Right now, residents in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties are taxed by South Texas ISD in addition to their home school district tax rate. view article arw

Abilene ISD has reported a loss in enrollment once again, marking the 6th year that’s seen a student body decrease. For the 2022-23 school year, 15,312 students were enrolled in AISD, down from 17,133 for the 2016-17 school year. view article arw

The legislation closely mirrors a Florida bill passed last year, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which detractors say would further isolate LGBTQ students and open teachers and school districts to legal risks. view article arw

The Highland Park Independent School District has received a $4.9 million grant from the Moody Foundation that will benefit the HPISD Moody Innovation Institute’s STEAM and MAPS initiatives. It will also expand programs to include the Moody Education Solutions Accelerator. Among the programs to benefit from the grant are those for mathematics education in grades K-8 and for dyslexia across the HPISD curriculum. view article arw

a couple of other minor fixes have been made but you probably won't notice any difference in your bottom line, so for you non-FTG districts, if you do notice a difference (other than the proration amounts) between Release 1 and this one, please let me know. This template is being provided by BOK Financial Securities, Inc. as a service to all school districts. It reflects my understanding of the school finance provisions contained in HB 3 and the school finance provisions adopted by previous sessions as well. Thanks go to Region 13 for continuing to allow this template to be posted to their website. view article arw

District leaders plan to present strategy to balance budget in January.   view article arw

Ector Independent School District officials announced that the district received a rating of "A" for "Superior Achievement" under Texas’ School FIRST financial accountability rating system. The "Superior Achievement" rating is the state’s highest, demonstrating the quality of Ector ISD’s financial management and reporting system. view article arw

Graham ISD held a public hearing Tuesday regarding the Red Top solar reinvestment zone and an application from Catalyst Energy, Inc. The board approved the reinvestment zone resolution, the findings from the Texas Comptroller’s Office regarding the project and conditionally, the Chapter 313 agreement pending ongoing cases filed with the Supreme Court of Texas. Moak Casey Executive Director of Economic Development, Kathy Mathias, spoke at the meeting on behalf of the company which serves as the financial consultant for the district. She said the comptroller had 90 days to issue a certificate to the district regarding the project, but failed to do so. view article arw

Transparency and equal treatment is why one teacher association is demanding a forensic audit of the Brownsville Independent School District after recently receiving a clean one. The Association of Brownsville Educators says the recent audit does not cover enough and that the district’s financial records should be looked at again. view article arw

Amanda Gonzales, Poteet ISD Executive Director of Business and Operations, presented the FIRST rating at the Dec. 19 Poteet ISD meeting. The Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas is made up of several benchmarks districts are required to fulfill. How well they do determines the rate they receive from the state. In 2022, the district did not have enough to pay for the bond, but refinanced it in April. They received a 100% on all other measures which gives the Poteet School District an A or Superior rating. view article arw

On Dec. 12, during a Dripping Springs ISD board meeting, a public hearing on the district’s Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas rating was held. The district received the rating Nov. 1. FIRST measures the quality of a school district’s reporting and management of finances to hold the district accountable for its financial management. The data for the 2021-22 rating is based upon data from fiscal year 2020-21. DSISD received a C rating, meaning the district “meets standard.” Despite scoring 98 out of 100 points, the district received the C because of its failure to meet requirements under Indicator 17. view article arw

Crossing guards who work on a temporary basis for Leander ISD were a late addition to the district's new retention payment plan. For Todd Andre, and others who protected the walk Friday, it came as a complete surprise. "It’s amazing, I really appreciate that," said Andre. The Leander ISD school board approved the plan Thursday night on a unanimous vote. The plan will cost the school district $5.3 million. view article arw

During a Dec. 5 special meeting of the Taylor ISD board, trustees approved nine applications for South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s potential $168 billion expansion and a single application for a $271 million project from Linde Inc., a major industrial gas company. view article arw

This Excel template is designed to help develop annual budgets, monitor over/under state aid payments during the year, and for long-range planning, as it typically gives users the ability to project state aid for at least four subsequent school years. Developed and maintained by Omar Garcia of BOK Financial Securities, Inc., we are the sole source provider of this template and have been granted permission to share exclusively.  A new series of releases, starting with this Release 1, is now available for download. This new release primarily deletes the 20-21 year/column and adds a 26-27 year/column. Other minor updates are made as well (see Notes tab). As always, stay tuned for any further developments.   Round 1 - 12/01/2022     (09) view article arw

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The number of flu, COVID-19 and RSV cases in the borderland continue to rise and with that comes many absent students across school districts. For Canutillo ISD it has affected their attendance record going from their normal 96-97% down to 94%. According to Canutillo ISD spokesperson Gustavo Reveles, that number has a significant impact across all schools in the district. “It still sounds like you know a good chunk of our kids are there and that’s true, but those 3 percentage points makes a huge difference, and we don’t want to be at that level, those figures are of concern to us.” Reveles said the district is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure students safety in the classroom while they continue to monitor their overall health. view article arw

Fitch Ratings - New York - 07 Dec 2022: Fitch Ratings has withdrawn the 'F1+' rating on the following commercial paper (CP) notes: --Northside Independent School District (TX) CP notes series A. The rating was based on the support of a revolving credit agreement provided by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. that was previously terminated. view article arw

The legislative-mandated financial accountability ratings have been released and Cove ISD received the Texas Education Agency’s highest rating of Superior. The Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas ratings are based on 15 established financial indicators including operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt. Over 1,200 school districts and charter schools are rated. Schools receive one of four ratings, Superior, Above Standard, Standard, and Substandard. Superintendent Joe Burns said Copperas Cove is very proud to earn the highest possible FIRST rating again. “This achievement reflects the exceptional job our business department, board of trustees and employees do in making sure local taxpayer dollars, state funds and federal dollars are not only judiciously spent, but very well managed. This prestigious honor becomes more challenging each year as operational funds continue to shrink and investment opportunities become more limited,” he said. “With that said, I want to once again recognize the outstanding efforts of the staff who serve in the CCISD Business Office, the oversight of the school board, and our employees who continually demonstrate a willingness to stretch every dollar as far as possible to make sure our students have the best opportunities to succeed.” view article arw

In response to inflation and supply chain issues, the Conroe Independent School District has created an $18.8 million contingency fund to use for construction costs outside original budget allocations for projects. “Going back to last summer, at Conroe High School we had a concrete shortage,” Easy Foster, director of planning and construction for CISD, said at the Nov. 15 board of trustees meeting. “Leading up to the summer we had plenty of allocation, we knew the war in Ukraine was starting to impact the supply chain. What we learned was that it was impacting the supply chain for pouring cement to the United States.” view article arw

The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD Board of Trustees voted to approve a settlement agreement with Superintendent Jorge Arredondo on Monday evening and named former PSJA principal Alejandro Elias as the district’s interim superintendent. Elias left the district earlier this year after a bitter, very public fight that briefly wound up in a courtroom before he agreed to settle his suit. He will take the helm at PSJA Tuesday.    () view article arw

Christina Hernandez, a mother of two and a former San Antonio theater teacher, knows firsthand how difficult it is to give every student the attention they deserve. And this school year, as class sizes have gotten bigger amid a statewide teacher shortage exacerbated by the pandemic, she started suspecting her public school district was not meeting her kids’ needs. So she pulled them out and started home-schooling them. “I know my kids better than anyone, and I know how they learn,” Hernandez said. “Within a week I was like, ‘They're already just more focused.’” Hernandez and her family are among the Texans who started home schooling when the pandemic hit. Research suggests home schooling was already growing in popularity before the pandemic, but according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an effort to examine the impact of COVID-19 on American life, the percentage of Texas families that home-school their children went up in 2020 — from 4.5% at the end of the 2019-20 school year to 12% at the start of the 2020-21 school year. The increase was particularly notable among Black families. view article arw

For the first time in its history, the Leander Independent School District is set to pay into the state’s recapture system, commonly known as “Robin Hood.” The system requires wealthy school districts to share their property tax money with poorer school districts that don’t have access to that kind of revenue. State legislators created the system with the intention of equalizing school funding. view article arw

DSISD names legislative priorities

November 2808:25 AM
 

DRIPPING SPRINGS – Dripping Springs ISD has announced what it hopes lawmakers will deem important for the 88th Legislative Session, which is slated to begin in two months. The DSISD administrative team developed a list of legislative priorities focused on seven areas: education funding, local decision making, improving accountability for charter schools, special education, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, teacher shortage and assessments and accountability. On Nov. 14, the DSISD board of trustees unanimously approved the legislative priorities. view article arw

Hutto ISD asks state for more money

November 2808:25 AM
 

HUTTO – More funding for growing districts and a better method of assessing student progress are among the top issues facing local and regional schools as Texas prepares for its 88th legislative… view article arw

The Texas Commission on Special Education Funding convened on November 14th to discuss Education Savings Account type vouchers for special education children.  PTC's own Rev. Steve Wells, Senior Pastor of the South Main Baptist Church of Houston, testified powerfully against diverting money from public schools for a special needs voucher.  view article arw

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Student enrollment is dropping significantly at Houston Independent School District. Numbers presented at the most recent school board meeting show on average, every HISD school is serving 73 fewer students now compared to six years ago. Districtwide, it's a 14% decline in enrollment. view article arw

Texas schools are nearly halfway through the school year and Nacogdoches ISD still has many positions vacant across it’s campuses. “The incentive is an acknowledgement… people have been having to do a lot of work to make sure everything is taken care of and covered.” Nacogdoches ISD Communications Director Les Linebarger said the administration will be presenting to the school board tomorrow night, asking for a one time incentive for their faculty and staff to retain current employees. The school board will discuss on approving a $100 incentive to be paid out to faculty and staff for the month of December. view article arw