Rural district needs more funds to operate — not latest legislation
I am a parent, a small-business owner and a school board member at Lytle ISD. I am close to the operational challenges in my district. I can only assume that our state leaders don’t know the facts about school districts like mine; otherwise, they couldn’t possibly be pushing the legislation they promoted this session.
We are a small rural district with a population that’s 75 percent economically disadvantaged. Our property values are lower than many parts of the state, and we are on the low end of dollars allotted per student by the state. Even so, we are committed to engaging and sustained learning for our students rather than subjecting them to standardized test drilland-kill preparation, like many schools. We have been recognized statewide for our academic achievements.
We have a superintendent who knows how to get the most bang for our buck. Even with the odds stacked against us, we are a district of innovation committed to providing our students with 21st-century learning opportunities. It’s offensive and just flat out wrong for our lieutenant governor to say, “Schools have enough money, they just need to use it more wisely.”
We are at the point where the saying “you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip” is real. We have had to dip our fund balance over the last few years — and the balance is dwindling. The noose has tightened each of the last few years with unfunded mandates — and the gratuitous $1,000 teacher pay increases and school vouchers will only add to the strangulation of our district.
We have increased teacher pay to remain competitive with neighboring districts and help with hiring and retention. It’s an easy choice for teachers to drive 10 miles down the road to make $10,000 more. We approved the pay increase as a leap of faith that we could continue to afford it in the years to come.
We’ve cut positions — as well as not rehired for some positions — to help balance our budget. When you cut teachers, you cut courses and electives and increase class size. We’ve also cut buses and put off large maintenance needs. We are now considering a bond as the only way to fund maintenance on our aging facilities. While some districts are passing bonds for amounts three, four or more times our regular budget for football stadiums with Jumbotrons, we are looking at passing a much smaller bond just to repair our school buildings. What happens when we’ve cut back all that we can — and there is no fund balance left?
Vouchers only stand to decrease district funding further. Though the financial implications of vouchers are huge, I am also concerned about other aspects. Vouchers for special needs children are only a gateway to vouchers for everyone. People who will be able to take advantage of vouchers are those who can more readily afford private education and can provide the transportation to a school outside of the community. That predominately leaves behind the economically disadvantaged and causes segregation.
Fewer students means less money and less teacher pay — and fewer quality teachers. Further, pulling students out of the public schools breaks down the sense of community, which is a big reason people choose to live in rural areas.
School funding that is already inadequate will only get worse with unfunded $1,000 pay increases and vouchers. What do we do when we’ve cut back all that we can? Do we cut out band, theater arts and sports? Extracurricular activities are invaluable for character-building, provide life lessons and help students explore their gifts. They also provide a lot toward community cohesiveness and growth.
Provide adequate and equitable funding, so that local school districts have the resources needed to serve the diversity of students without discrimination. Proper funding results in better pay for teachers, more and quality teachers, a stronger community and a better education for all Texas students.
Re: July 27 commentary, “Two Views: Constituents OK with tele-town meetings, says Lamar Smith.”
How dumb does Lamar Smith think we are? His op-ed is just like his town halls: demeaning and pandering. A “town hall” means meeting in public with constituents. If he has so many meetings, please document them.
In 2009, I went to a Smith town hall. He explained that we would have financial Armageddon if Obamacare passed. The audience tried to explain supply and demand and tight credit as cause of limited expansion of small businesses. All fell on deaf ears. Many of us who have tried to communicate with our federal representatives have had our comments noted and received canned responses while they do what pleases their donors. Have the guts to face us and say
Re: July 25 article, “In TV interview, Dan Patrick blames Democrats for immigrant deaths in San Antonio.”
Lt. Gov. Daniel Patrick lays the ills of the nation — including, one supposes, the horrific consequences of espousing human rights for LGBT — at the feet of the Democrats. His latest vitriolic outburst says Democratic policies are responsible for the death and suffering of those miserable souls locked into a semi-truck trailer discovered in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot. My mind reels.
Last time I looked, both our state and federal governments were under decided Republican control.
As bad as our chainsaw-wielding governor is for Texas cities, one can’t help but hope he keeps breathing.
Transgender Army veteran Tanya Walker speaks Wednesday to protesters in New York’s Times Square as they rally against President Donald Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.