On October 19, three local school districts joined together in an unprecedented public forum to share The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: a taxpayer’s guide to the public school funding crisis. School Board Trustees and Administrators in Carroll, Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville presented a united message about school funding to an audience of about 900 taxpayers, parents and educators.
The forum was held in the auditorium of Carroll Senior High School in Southlake. Following a short presentation on the facts about school finance, officials from each of the districts met face-to-face with their respective constituents to answer specific budget and finance questions.
“It is important that we educate lawmakers and area stakeholders on the financial crisis that Texas school districts are facing right now,” said Keller ISD Board President Cindy Lotton. “This is a call to action today. The state funding formula is broken, and Keller ISD’s operating budget is no exception; without drastic measures, we will be forced to sacrifice quality education and quality people.”
Each of the three districts have different funding scenarios, but all are facing significant budget cuts as they continue to see the costs for educating students outpace funding from state lawmakers. The local elected leaders asked taxpayers in their three districts to send a strong message to Austin – Make Education A Priority!
“Under the current school finance system, school districts across the state receive varying amounts of state funding per student, which creates wide inequities within the system and results in deficit budgets,” said GCISD Board President Charlie Warner. “GCISD is in its third year of operating under a deficit budget. District leaders and school board members are working to minimize funding to serve our students, but we must receive relief so that we can retain the quality employees who are critical to our students’ success and maintain the programs and services that make our district great. We do not want to have to cut teachers, courses and programs, but we will have no choice if something isn’t done soon. Communities must join together now to bring about a system-wide change for the future.”
Representatives from each of the three school districts have created a website to share school finance news, handouts and a brief video to explain the school funding crisis in Texas. The general public can visit the site at http://www.schoolfinanceforum.info.
The overall goal, officials explained, was to increase public understanding of the finance system and to get taxpayers actively involved in the legislative process.
“The Legislature has in essence removed autonomy from the school districts and excluded taxpayers from realizing the promised benefits of their tax dollars, namely a locally controlled public school system that focuses on the educational needs of their children,” said Carroll School Board President Erin Shoupp. “Inequitable levels of funding exist primarily due to legislative inaction and political positioning on the subject of school finance and at the same time they have implemented greater restrictions on access to our local tax dollars.”
School officials say well-meaning laws at the state level don’t always add up to success for students at the local district. In fact, CISD, GCISD and KISD can all point to unfunded mandates that have put additional burdens on local districts, while state funding continues to decline. Members of the forum audience were shocked to learn that state funding for public schools can vary from $4,000 per student to as much as $12,000 in some districts.
The elected school leaders in each of the three districts adopted 2010-2011 Legislative Platforms, voted on resolutions to send a message to Austin, met with lawmakers face-to-face, and took their message to civic and parent support groups asking business leaders to get more involved.