The Houston Independent School District Board of Education will consider requesting a reduction in recapture payments after it says it was left with an unreimbursed balance of over $15 million after Hurricane Harvey. According to the Texas Education Code, "unreimbursed disaster remediation costs that a school district incurs responding to a disaster allows the district to request a reduction in recapture payments." view article arw

Ten years ago the school district in this small rural town faced a choice that would cut deep in the heart of every Texan: keep its 11-man football program, or downsize to a 6-man program? Sitting where west Texas oil fields meet north Texas farmland, the high school student population here had dropped below 300, so funding had dropped as well. Six-man football, or consolidation with other school districts nearby, seemed a question of when not if. view article arw

The Texas Legislature is putting its focus on public education. More funding for schools and for teacher salaries could be in the future. "If this were to happen, it'd be a tremendous morale boost for our teachers," said Denison Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott. "It's very exciting, and I'm hoping that they have the will to do that. It's badly needed. Our teachers have not had a state pay raise in 20 years." view article arw

The work starts now

January 1708:30 AM

It’s here. As of noon on January 8, 2019, the 86th Texas Legislature has begun––and we’re off to a great start. The Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are all united and ready to work this legislative session building a better Texas. view article arw

The Humble ISD board of trustees is seeking a new source of federal funds to reimburse the district for nearly $60 million in construction costs it incurred after Hurricane Harvey. The board approved a motion to withdraw a request for monies through FEMA’s Public Assistance Alternative Procedures grant application, also known as Section 428 of the The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, during their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15. view article arw

The Humble ISD board of trustees is seeking a new method to receive federal funds to reimburse the district of nearly $60 million in construction costs it incurred after Hurricane Harvey. The board approved a motion to withdraw a request for monies through FEMA’s Public Assistance Alternative Procedures grant application, also known as Section 428 of the The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, during their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15. view article arw

The Commission on Public School Finance is recommending paying the state's best teachers $100,000 a year for meeting certain criteria, like working on at-risk campuses for example.  Education Commissioner Mike Morath said that's where education is, at times, most vital. view article arw

Repost!  Background: Under the politically-motivated disguise of saving students from the ineptitude of community-based school districts, the State’s potential “hostile takeover” of Houston ISD (“HISD”) is all part of the State’s master plan to privatize public education. The State does not want to assume control of HISD. If that was the goal, the State would have already taken over HISD for having a conservator for more than 2 years. Rather, the State’s threatened “hostile takeover” of HISD is simply the deployment of another privatization strategy approved by the Texas Legislature in 2015. Unfortunately, it is only one of the many strategies deployed by the State to expedite the privatization of public education in local communities across Texas. A common feature of each of the State’s strategies to privatize public education is that they are deployed without community or taxpayer approval. view article arw

As lawmakers in Austin look to tackle school finance this legislative session, educators in Highland Park ISD and other property-rich districts are hoping for new approaches and more funding.  But whether there will be any relief for districts such as HPISD, which must give back money to the state to help fund property-poor districts under the ‘Robin Hood’ system, remains uncertain. view article arw

This story is part of our Annual Community Guide, which takes a look at some of the biggest stories to watch in The Woodlands and South Montgomery County in 2019. Stay tuned throughout the week as we countdown to the No. 1 story to watch this year. What we reported A commission on school finance reform was created by House Bill 21 in the 85th Texas Legislature after lawmakers set out to fix the school finance system but could not agree on a solution. After a series of meetings throughout the year, the commission delivered a report to the Legislature at the end of 2018 with recommendations for how the school finance system could be improved. In past budget cycles, Conroe ISD has attributed losses in state funding to the “Robin Hood” plan, which uses recaptured revenue from wealthy districts to fund less-wealthy districts. State funding accounted for 40 percent of CISD’s budget in 2009, while funding dropped to 26 percent in 2018.    view article arw

In the latest episode of our podcast on the 86th Legislature, Evan Smith talks to the chairman of the House Public Education Committee, Dan Huberty, about what it will take — and what it will cost — for Texas lawmakers to solve the state's most intractable problem, school finance. "Point of Order" is a weekly podcast hosted by Smith that takes you inside, behind and underneath the politics and issues of the Texas Legislature — the turning of gears and pulling of strings that power government in a state like no other. view article arw

District 73 State Representative Kyle Biedermann, of Fredericksburg, on Thursday filed House Bill 729 to help schools negatively affected by the state’s recapture formula, also known as the “Robin Hood” school finance system. Biedermann formed a working group with local public school districts during the interim to formulate legislation to improve schools. HB729 is a result of that working group and will limit recapture, allowing property wealthy districts to keep at least the state average per student. view article arw

Robin Hood under attack

January 1108:25 AM

This year, the Comal Independent School District has budgeted to return about $7.2 million in property tax proceeds to the state under the Chapter 41 plan, which since 1993 has redistributed proceeds from property-rich public school districts to fund poorer districts. On Thursday, District 73 State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, filed House Bill 729, a measure that would redefine that provision of the school finance plan, commonly called “Robin Hood.” view article arw

A Florida man is facing charges for allegedly conning the Crowley Independent School District out of nearly $2 million. Donald Conkright was arrested in South Florida earlier this month and charged with wire fraud. According to court documents, Crowley ISD got an email in October that appeared to be from one of its regular construction vendors, Steele & Freeman. The email included the name of one of Steele & Freeman’s accountants and asked the district to update its banking information for wire transfer payments. view article arw

After failing to pass legislation to reform public school funding in 2017, state leaders have pledged to make it a top priority this legislative session. The Texas Public School Finance Commission spent 2018 creating a roadmap for lawmakers to enact that reform, but key questions remain. view article arw

Wake up, sleepyheads! We have been dozing and dreaming in a land of make-believe for way too long, rather than face up to what we, Austinites, must do to save our own schools. Yes, the world is dark and spooky. Yes, we tend to lose ourselves in fear or fantasy when thinking about our precious children. But c'mon, already. Elsewhere in this issue, you'll see members and watchers of the Legislature ready to take new Speaker Dennis Bonnen at his word that the time is now for school finance reform, which may help Austin ISD and probably can't make its fiscal woes worse. You'll also see the district itself grapple with the reality that, in the words of its Budget Stabilization Task Force, "only the most politically charged options to address the structural [budget] deficit remain." view article arw

For the 16th year in a row, Bryan administrators received the highest rating possible in the annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas assessment. Commonly referred to as FIRST, the assessment looks at the district's finances and financial systems. "We take pride in the fact that we do measure up with that, and for 16 years we've received the highest rating that the state gives on this. We think it bodes well for how we handle the finances and the money that we're given from the taxpayers in the state to try to educate our children and do the best we can of the children in our district," Bryan Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Kevin Beesaw said. view article arw

Austin ISD is looking at a $30-million budget shortfall this year and an even worse deficit in the years to come. view article arw

The $1.7 billion question heading into the 86th Texas Legislature — which kicked off Tuesday — is how the state will pay for the long awaited recommendations from the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. Action on the revamping of the state’s troubled school finance system was placed on hold two years ago to allow a state-appointed panel to review the problem. The group’s mission is now complete. view article arw

Thank you Jack Cross for shining a light on the efforts, in plain sight, by the GOP-led Texas Legislature to financially starve Texas public schools ("State must stop stealing money from property owners through school funding," The Daily News, Jan. 3). Why would state leaders concurrently lower per student state contributions to public schools, attempt to restrict local tax support and give major corporations a unique method for continuously lowering their value renditions? Follow the money. view article arw

Scott Davis said his first year as Crosby ISD’s superintendent is one he will surely never forget. On the heels of a finanical crisis, Crosby ISD held a community convocation at the Crosby High School auditorium on Monday night to look back on 2018 and give insight into what the community can look forward to, such as a potential end to financial exigency next month. Davis said he expects that he will suggest the board of trustees end their declaration of a financial emergency at their February meeting. view article arw

Slashing millions from a school budget is not easy. Even tougher when you realize you're sending 51 percent of your property taxes to help other school districts. That is the situation facing the Austin Independent School District. The tough talk got pretty heated Monday night when a budget task force presented ideas on how AISD can cut $30 million. view article arw

Moments after the 86th Texas Legislative session started, school finance law was on the mind of many lawmakers. Governor Greg Abbott has called on a school funding fix for this session, saying, “We must put Robin Hood school funding on a path of extinction and must pay our best teachers more.” view article arw

For five months, 24 people examined every program in the Austin Independent School District, looking for ways to save money. Monday night, the members of the Budget Stabilization Task Force presented the results of their study to AISD Trustees: more than 40 ideas on how to cut $30 million from next year's AISD budget. view article arw

Area educators will be keeping a close eye on Austin this week. On Tuesday, state legislators open a new year of business inside The Capitol. A hot topic they'll have to work on includes funding for public education and the burden it's placed on property owners. view article arw

The Austin school district enrollment is expected to decline by 7,200 students over the next decade, according to a report to be presented to trustees Monday night. That would continue annual enrollment drops over the past six years, as Austin-area students choose charter schools and families move to adjacent districts where the schools can be perceived as better and housing is less expensive. The school district also has lost thousands to charter schools, which have rapidly expanded in recent years, and now tops 30,000 Austin-area students. view article arw

The conversation got heated at times Monday as the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees discussed a new report that recommends ending magnet programs, closing schools and redrawing boundaries as ways to cut spending and increase revenue. view article arw

Nearly a month after Austin ISD staff presented a draft of recommendations to cut the district’s budget deficit to the AISD board of trustees, a new group of findings and ideas has been released to the board. Created by the Budget Stabilization Task Force, which was formed by the district over the summer to evaluate options for the district, the report of findings and suggestions presented Jan. 7 lists ideas to cut costs and save money. The 39-page report can be found on the district’s website with the meeting agenda. Robert Thomas, one of the task force’s tri-chairs, said at the Jan. 7 workshop that criteria considered were the impact on student achievement, financials, equity, enrollment, the district’s ability to hold qualified staff members and a proposal’s feasibility. view article arw

As lawmakers return to the state capitol Tuesday to start the new legislative session, Austin Independent School District is preparing its list of legislative priorities. At the top of the list is a familiar issue, school finance reform. AISD's director of intergovernmental relations and policy oversight, Edna Butts, told KXAN the district would like to see the state put up 50 percent of the funds needed to educate Texas children. AISD is also asking legislators to put limits on recapture, the system that collects local tax money from property-rich districts like Austin and redistributes it to property-poor districts. view article arw

After hours of discussion Wednesday, a state panel studying school finance stripped its final report of language that blamed the state for inadequate education spending — and that added urgency to a need for more money to improve student performance. The original version of the report, unveiled last Tuesday, included stronger language that held the state accountable for the lack of education funding and urged lawmakers to immediately inject more than a billion dollars of new funding into public schools. Scott Brister, the panel's chairman and a former Texas Supreme Court justice, led the charge to make those changes, which he said would be more palatable to lawmakers and keep Texas from being sued in the future. "I do have a problem several places where it says our school system has failed. I do think that’s asking for trouble," he said. view article arw

A state panel unanimously recommended Wednesday the Legislature inject significantly more state money into Texas public schools but, after much squabbling among members, would not say how much money is needed. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance, mostly made up of school district employees and current and former elected officials, finalized and voted on 34 final recommendations to fix the state’s beleaguered school finance system. Wednesday’s actions concluded a yearlong process in which the commission reviewed the complicated mechanisms of the school finance system, contemplated ways to update funding formulas to reflect current student demographics and considered property tax relief plans. School finance along with property tax relief, which are inextricably tied view article arw

Texas should give more funds to school districts that replicate Dallas' merit-based teacher pay system and its program that funnels additional resources to campuses that struggle the most. That's according to the School Finance Commission, which released its final recommendations this week after a year of reviewing funding levels and academic performance across Texas. The commission also wants to require students to fill out federal or state financial aid forms in order to graduate. Those who don't plan to attend college would have to submit an opt-out form signed by parents. view article arw

An Austin school district advisory committee tasked with finding ways to cut millions of dollars in spending is recommending the district close up to 15 schools, redraw school boundaries, and eliminate magnet programs. The options are among 43 recommendations the Budget Stabilization Task Force will present to school board members Monday night, as the district faces a deficit for the third year in a row, is on track to deplete its reserves within three years and faces further enrollment declines, which translate into less state funding. “Our recommendations are difficult and challenging and get to the heart of addressing the sacred cows,” Robert Thomas, a chairman of the task force, told the American-Statesman. “I have faith that the right thing will be done and we’ll see better academic outcomes for all our kids and not just for our kids who have parents who can drive them to magnet schools or have the economic means to put them in private schools.” view article arw

Austin ISD is hoping a new list of ideas will help pull them out of a deficit. A budget task force appointed by the district formed back in June has released more than 40 recommendations on Friday night. Over the past few years AISD enrollment has been shrinking, costing the district millions in state funding. Now in a $30 million budget short fall this year, task force members like Education Austin’s Ken Zarifis are trying to climb out of it. view article arw

Two of the most expensive ways to make Texas voters happy just happen to be the top priorities of the state leaders and legislators assembling next week in Austin.  The state’s school finance system is out of balance when it comes to raising money for education, and out of date when it comes to distributing the money it raises. It’s expensive to re-balance — even when overall spending remains the same — because it pits one set of taxpayers who’ll be paying more against others who’ll be paying less. view article arw