Update on Lawsuit & Early Release

We have received word from the Equity Center that the school funding lawsuit is now set to start on October 22, 2012. The judge in the trial has signed an order basically consolidating all four funding lawsuits that have been filed into one. When further information becomes available, I will pass it on to you.

Today is an early release day for the district. Buses will run at approximately 1:30 today. Tomorrow is a school holiday. Classes will resume Monday at the regular times.

I wish everyone has a safe and happy Easter weekend.

Cuts or No Cuts?

Over the past several months, there have been numerous stories about the “true” plight of education funding in the state of Texas. Some of the people that are weighing in with their comments and views claim that education funding in the state of Texas was actually increased during this last legislative session. Below is an article from the Equity Center. This article does a good job in explaining how these claims are being made. The key point to remember is that the federal funds that flowed to Texas and ultimately to school districts were one time revenue sources.  

Suppose your boss comes to you and says, “We got a one-time windfall insurance settlement, so instead of paying your salary this year totally out of our operating revenue, we’re going to pay 10% of it from the insurance money.” Since it doesn’t affect you, you don’t care. The next year your boss says, “We’re paying you the same money out of our operating account this year as we did last year, so don’t worry, there aren’t any cuts.” To you, of course, it’s a 10% cut because the one-time insurance money went away.

What’s the point of this story? It is an illustration of misdirection, the kind that magicians use when they make the impossible appear to happen. It’s also an illustration of what some Texas state officials are doing when they claim – falsely – that funding for schools wasn’t cut this year. Many of them claim that funding was actually increased. Most often, they pretend it was a $1.6 billion increase, but one top official was quoted in an recent news article that they had appropriated more money for public education than was ever before appropriated in the state of Texas — $3.8 billion more for the Foundation School Program. He said that school groups are upset, “because they did not get what they hoped for. They expected an $8 billion increase, and they got a $4 billion increase (and are calling that a cut).”

But this is no harmless magic trick. When school officials and other supporters of public education say that funding for education was cut and the response is, “No, it was increased, but just not as much as they wanted,” there are several vicious implications being made. First and foremost, supporters of public education are being called liars. Second, and perhaps equally damaging, it implies that educators and those who care about education are greedy to the point of being insatiable.

But surely, you say, everyone knows the truth and understands that state funding for education was cut, right? Wrong! If the “funding was increased” story isn’t answered, quickly and forcefully, every time it is trotted out, it will be believed. If it forms people’s first impression of what happened last Session, it will be extremely hard to get them to see the truth and change their minds.

So how does this game of illusion work?

The easiest explanation is that there are multiple accounts from which the Foundation School Program (FSP) is funded. To create the myth of an increase, they selectively use only a few of the accounts that give them the best-looking numbers (i.e., the sources that actually increased) and pretend that the sources that went down didn’t exist or aren’t “general revenue.”

Of course, the 800-lb. gorilla of that was the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) “stimulus” money. When the 2009 appropriations conference committee, at the last moment, reduced general revenue (GR) for public schools by $3.6 billion ($3.25 B for the FSP) and substituted ARRA funds, the explanation was, “This isn’t a cut because you have to count the stimulus money.” Now, when they compare GR from this biennium to last biennium, they say, “It isn’t a cut because you can’t count the stimulus money,” just like the boss in the story above.

Unless you cherry-pick a few numbers out of context that don’t tell the whole story, funding for public schools was cut by the Legislature in 2011.

That is not an illusion. It is real.

Accountability versus Compliance

I attended the Texas Association of School Administrator’s Spring Conference this past week. The focus of the conference was on accountability. I was privileged to hear several presentations by prominent leaders in the area of accountability. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

First, there was a distinction made between compliance and accountability. Compliance can be looked at as the criteria that schools are judged by from the state and/or federal level. These criteria usually involve numbers and may often be compared with a passing rate on a high stakes test established by the state or by the federal government.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with compliance indicators, when the entire accountability system is driven by compliance indicators, then criteria that are important to local communities are eliminated.

A true accountability picture of the quality of education provided by a school or district can only be established by taking into account items that are valued at the local level. Each community should have the opportunity and freedom to let their local school districts know what matters most to them. Only with this type of local input, can we truly have an accountability system that means something to our two primary partners in education: students and parents.

As a parent of a 6th grade student and a 9th grade student, I do want to know how my children are progressing in their education; however, I do not want the quality of their education to be judged by a single test score on a single day of the school year. This might be one part of an overall accountability system; however, it should not be the beginning and the end of the system.

I believe that our challenge as a school district and as a community is to set a course, do what’s right, and make the the compliance part fit within that framework. With regard to our students, this is the path that we have pursued over the last several years. Regardless of the impact on compliance indicators, we have purposefully chosen to do what is in the best interest of the students. We will continue to put the students as the primary focus in making decisions.

What do you think are the most important things that EISD should be doing? I would love to hear from parents/guardians, grandparents, community members, business leaders, and anyone else that would like to participate. Email me your thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net


Intermediate and Primary Campuses Earn Award and This Week

Eustace Intermediate and Eustace Primary both earned the distinction of being named a Title I, Part A, State Distinguished School for 2011-2012. According to the Texas Education Agency, this designation “recognizes schools that have consistently demonstrated strong academic performance over a three-year period. All of these Title I, Part A schools achieved the Academically Exemplary rating for the present school year and have a residing population of 40% or more low income students – as reported on NCLB Consolidated Application for Federal Funding.”

On the TEA website, it was reported that 501 schools throughout the state earned the Distinguished Performance designation. In order to be considered for this designation, a school had to meet the following criteria:

  • Title I, Part A campus in 09-10, 10-11, and 11-12;
  • Maintained a campus residing population of 40% or more low-income in 11-12;
  • Met AYP in 2010 and 2011;
  • Achieved a campus rating in Spring 2011 of Exemplary;
  • Achieved a campus rating in Spring of 2010 of either Exemplary or Recognized; and
  • Achieved a campus rating in Spring 2009 of either Exemplary or Recognized.

Congratulations to the Intermediate and the Primary for this honor! Special thanks to the staff at both campuses for their hard work and dedication to providing the best education possible to our children. Also, a special recognition goes to the students for all their hard work in achieving this recognition. Finally, a special thank you to the parents and guardians for all their support and help in the education of their children.

This Week

Monday – HS track at Elkhart

Tuesday – Soundpost Music Festival at Canton; Baseball v. Scurry-Rosser; Softball v. Leon;

Thursday – End of 5th 6 Weeks; Early release – buses run at 1:30

Friday – School holiday; Baseball at Malakoff; Softball at Teague