The Carroll School Board is hoping parents, students, taxpayers, educators and business leaders will join in a letter-writing campaign to encourage the Texas Legislature to “Make Education A Priority.” The campaign officially kicked off Tuesday morning and will end at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 28.
“Our goal is to hand-deliver thousands of letters to the men and women who are representing the taxpayers of Texas,” said Sue Armstrong, Carroll Trustee and Legislative Liaison. “We want to send the message that our children are important and that public education ought to be their top priority. We would love to have at least one letter or postcard for every student enrolled in the district.”
School officials say letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped in boxes located in each school office and the CISD Administration Center. Private donations are paying for the printing of 15,000 green postcards that contain a unified message to lawmakers, as well as a spot for a more personalized message from participants. The preprinted postcards should be available in CISD schools early next week. The postcards may be filled out and dropped off in the boxes at each school location, as well.
The locally-elected Trustees from Carroll joined their colleagues in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and Keller ISD to host a school finance forum last October. The event drew nearly 1,000 people to hear a message about the state’s school funding crisis. Since then, school officials have been making presentations and announcements at various school and civic meetings, in an effort to generate a greater understanding of the school funding situation. Trustees want to make sure local voters understand the nuances of the funding formula, the inequities in funding for various districts and the loss of local control caused by unfunded state mandates and legislative decisions that prevent those most knowledgeable about the local educational program from making effective and efficient decisions for the children in their community.
Comptroller Susan Combs recently released state revenue projections, outlining a projected $27 billion revenue shortfall in the state budget. Because public education accounts for a large majority of that budget, officials fear significant cuts are still in the near future.
Trustees are hoping the letter-writing campaign will send a visual message to the senators and representatives who began meeting as part of the 82ndLegislative Session on Tuesday. Armstrong was present for the swearing-in ceremonies in Austin, making every opportunity to get Carroll and the public school message in front of the elected officials. A bus trip to Austin is planned for local leaders and taxpayers in late January, and CISD intends to participate in Tarrant County Day in Austin March 2 and 3.
“We realize they are facing difficult choices in this funding shortfall,” Superintendent David Faltys told parents at a meeting recently. “We are not even asking for more money right now. We are simply asking them to make education a priority – to not cut funding for public schools in the next biennium.”
Leaders in CISD say they won’t be discouraged by talks of 5-15% budget cuts for public schools. Some scenarios have Carroll losing anywhere from $3 million to $9 million dollars. Despite efforts to reduce expenses and identify revenue-generating initiatives over a two-year period, the district still faces a $2.3 million budget shortfall under current funding formula. CISD, like more than 60 percent of the districts in Texas, will have to dip into fund balance to make up for the operating shortfall.
“If you add additional cuts to our deficit for this next year, we are talking about a significant hit to programs and positions here in our district,” said Faltys. “We want those representing us to ensure equitable and fair funding for all districts, and we want them to allow our local Trustees to make the decisions they feel are best for our students.”
“We are certainly not alone in this fight,” Faltys added. “There’s a strong movement across the state to make our voices heard.”
More than 400 school districts like Carroll have joined the Make Education A Priority initiative started by school Trustees in Aledo ISD. Local officials will be monitoring the education bills filed in Austin, posting updates for local taxpayers and voters on the CISD website. The Legislative Update link is located under the Board Members’ drop-down menu on the CISD website. A Legislative-Budget Committee is also working tirelessly to make a difference at the state level, communicate with local taxpayers and raise revenues not subject to the school funding formula’s recapture (Robin Hood) provisions.