Thursday, January 28, 2021

Local Lawmakers On Interim School Finance Committee

There are some familiar local lawmakers among those appointed to a Joint Interim Committee to Study the Public School Finance System. Carroll school officials learned today that Representative Vicki Truitt of Keller and Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound are among those who will study this important topic and make recommendations to the 83rd Texas Legislature.

In a press release from Austin, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced appointments to the Joint Interim Committee, created through Senate Bill 1 in the first called session of the 82nd Legislature. In addition to Truitt and Nelson, other notable appointees included Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, Royce West of Dallas, Rob Eissler from The Woodlands and Todd Smith of Euless.

CISD officials have been monitoring the school finance situation closely following news in the last session that the district will lose $8 million in state funding over the biennium. Carroll is not alone, however. According to an analysis by Moak Casey school finance experts, every public school district in the state of Texas lost funding in the last Legislative session. As a result, many districts are faced with budget cuts that include reductions in administrative, support and teaching staff positions, travel, professional development, extracurricular activities and more.

Other options being considered across the state are bus fees, student activity fees, pay freezes, resignation incentives, tax ratification elections, and revenue enhancement projects.

Carroll ISD has been working to reduce expenditures and increase revenues since 2009 with adoption of an Expenditure Reduction Plan and a public forum hosted by CISD and neighboring Grapevine-Colleyville and Keller ISDs. More than $3 million in budget cuts occurred in the first year and another $1 million was cut the following budget cycle.

Since 2009, the School Board and Administration have engaged employees, parents and taxpayers in two-way dialogue to obtain opinions and feedback on the district’s financial situation, conducting numerous face-to-face meetings and offering an online budget survey.

In 2011, the district updated their budget process by adopting a Balance the Budget Plan and launching a new, informational website called School officials conducted a second public survey in the fall of 2011 and will continue to study options and act on the proposed operational budget throughout the spring. Last month, Trustees adopted a Balance the Budget framework that will phase in budget cuts over the next several years. Additional options for raising revenue is also a part of the proposed plan, but Trustees have not yet acted on each line item of the Administration’s framework.

In a move that saved block scheduling in grades 9-12, however, Trustees cut eight teaching positions across eight grade levels. No teachers will lose their jobs, but the positions will be left vacant through retirements, resignations and reassignments. Carroll Senior and Carroll High School will each be reduced by two positions, while both middle and intermediate schools will each lose one teaching position for the 2012-2013 school year. Because of the tighter staffing model, district officials believe they will be able to continue the block scheduling for students.

Hundreds of school districts – including Carroll ISD – have joined five different lawsuits against the state of Texas in the hope that the courts will force the Legislature to revamp the finance system to ensure more funding for public education. The cases were assigned to Judge John Dietz, the same judge who ruled in favor of public schools who sued the state back in 2005. A free and appropriate public education is a right guaranteed under the Texas Constitution. CISD will pay about $1 per student to participate in the lawsuit. The case is not expected to be heard before the Texas Supreme Court until next fall.

The complete list of Joint Interim Committee members is as follows:

Dewhurst appointed Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) as joint chair of the Committee. Other Senate members include: Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D McAllen), Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), Royce West (D-Dallas) and Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands).

Speaker Straus appointed Representative Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) as joint chair of the committee. Other House Representatives include: Alma Allen (D-Houston), Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Donna Howard (D-Austin), Dan Huberty (R-Houston), Susan King (R-Abilene), Todd Smith (R-Euless), Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) and Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio).