Points to ponder for current legislative session
As legislators return to session, area educators are looking to see the outcome which will affect their schools.
Bridge City Superintendent Mike King, said there are four areas of concern.
One of the concerns is the current accountability system.
“Districts want an accountability system, not just the one day, one test system,” King said.
According to King, the results from the test determine how a school does all year.
“One day, one test does not determine our accountability,” King said. “What we want is a full range of accountability. You just don’t get a full picture on one day tests.”
The Texas Education Agency recently announced 44 percent of Texas school campuses met the Adequate Yearly Progress, known as the AYP, which is a federal accountability system. However, the Bridge City school district was the only public district in Orange County this year to meet the federal standards set by the U.S. Department of Education under the 2001 ‘No Child Left Behind Act.’
During the 2011-12 school year, the state tests were changed to the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness which replaced the TAKS which had been given for the previous eight years.
All Texas school districts and campuses are rated based on federal and state expectations. Under federal accountability, districts either meet AYP or they do not. However, under the state accountability, district campuses receive ratings such as exemplary, recognized, acceptable or unacceptable ratings.
King would also like to see some changes in the graduation plan with added flexibility. The “four by four” has three levels with two parts, the distinguished and recommended, for students on the college track. An added third phase would be a minimum which would allow a broader education into technology classes.
King says the “four by four program” is a “good plan, but cuts vocational classes.” It consists of four years each of math, English, science and social studies. He added, the high school now offers three welding classes. In addition, students have signed up to take a class on the principals of manufacturing and career connections classes.
‘The four by four plan is what has caused the career and technology classes to be trimmed down,” King said. ‘Colleges look at the GPA and college entrance exams.”
King is also looking to see what legislators will do about the voucher bills where students will be allowed to take their tax dollars to other schools such as private and charter schools.
King wants the tax dollars to stay in the school districts and not to the private or charter schools. He also feels the charter and private schools, if they do receive state funds, should have the same system of accountability.
“We don’t want an unlevel playing field,” King said.
During the last session, $5.4 billion was cut out of the education budget. Going into this session, there was a $8.8 billion surplus and there is $12 billion in the “rainy day” fund, according to King.
King would like to see the funding cuts restored to school finance.
In 2007, the state began a system where they formed an equation to determine how much money a district will receive.
Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code makes provisions for certain school districts to share their local tax revenue with other school districts. For the purposes of the school finance system in Texas, districts are designated as either property wealthy or property poor. The relative wealth of the school district is measured in terms of the taxable value of property that lies within the school district borders divided by the number of students in weighted average daily attendance
WADA is the weighted average daily attendance figure used in several state funding formulas to calculate the amount of state and local funds a district is entitled to.
A district’s WADA is calculated by first subtracting from a district’s Tier I entitlement any transportation funding the district is due, any funding the district is due for new instructional facilities, the district’s TxVSN allotment, the district’s high school allotment, and 50 percent of the CEI adjustment. The resulting amount is then divided by the district’s basic allotment amount to arrive at a district’s WADA, according to the Texas Education Agency.
The amount of money given may have gone up or down since the initial finding. The Texas School Districts Target Revenue for the 2011-12 WADA shows significant differences in the amounts given to the schools per student. The Huntington School District, located in East Texas with a population of 2,068 people per student receives $4,813. The Westbrook School District located Central Western Texas has a population 203 people and receives $13,121 per student.
Orange County school districts fared somewhere in the middle of the more than 1,100 districts statewide.
According to reports, Orangefield ISD received $4,885 per student, Vidor ISD – $4,929, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD -$ 4,976, Bridge City ISD – $5,082, and West-Orange Stark ISD- $5,196.
Other area schools such as Port Neches-Groves received $5,409, Nederland – $5,121, High Island – $6,170, Beaumont – $5,610, Hardin-Jefferson -$5,778, Port Arthur – $5,610 and Barber’s Hill – $7,198.
“The goal is an equitable funding system,” King said. “Presently a student is worth a different amount of state money depending on the district they live in.”
King said it is important for the public to be informed.
“This is the most important legislation session for education,” he said. ‘It’s important legislators know what we want.”
Area superintendents are planning to host another forum to give the public the information needed and the chance to ask questions. Until then, if people have questions, they can call their local superintendents, King said.
More information on proposed bills is available on the Texas Legislature website at www.capitol.state.tx.us/.