Category Archives: school finance

Dan Patrick disputes the truth about his war on education


As the entire education community knows, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his political allies, including Gov. Greg Abbott, declared war on public education a long time ago. And by education community, I don’t mean the pro-voucher and pro-privatization crowd because they are part of Patrick’s army.

Now, stung by recent editorial criticism, the lieuteuant governor is trying to strike back by renewing his war on the truth.

Last week, the San Antonio Express-News published an editorial about the severe financial plight of local school districts, including North East ISD, and laid the blame squarely where it belongs – on state government’s failure to adequately fund public education.

Headlined, “The state’s war on public education hits home,” the editorial pointed out that the state’s share of education funding is projected to fall to 38 percent in the 2018-19 school year, which begins next fall, increasing the school finance load on local property taxpayers.

The newspaper also criticized Patrick for his phony-baloney (my term) proposal to provide property tax “relief” by putting crippling limits on the ability of school boards and other local governments to raise property tax rates for needed services, such as the schools that Patrick and his allies refuse to adequately fund.

Patrick, in a published response emailed to political supporters, struck back. Among other things, he denied that the state’s share of funding had dropped to 38 percent. He called the figure a “myth that continues to be repeated over and over.”

The 38 percent figure, though, is not a myth. It is a projection from the Legislative Budget Board, the budget-writing arm of the Legislature that Patrick co-chairs, of the share of the Foundation School Program that the state will be contributing during the 2018-19 school year. The remainder, 62 percent, will be borne by local property taxpayers. That’s even worse than the current school year, when the state is paying 40 percent and local taxpayers, 60 percent.

The Foundation School Program doesn’t include federal funding. But even with federal funding, according to the Texas Education Agency, the state, as of the 2015-16 school year, was paying only 41 percent of school funding. The federal government was paying 10 percent, and local property taxpayers, 49 percent, the biggest share.

The state’s share of education funding has been slipping and the local share increasing for several years, including the entire time Patrick has been lieutenant governor and Abbott has been governor.

Updated rankings released by the National Education Association this week show that Texas spends $2,300 less per student in average daily attendance than the national average, ranking Texas 36th among the states and the District of Columbia. And average teacher pay in Texas has slipped to 29th, $7,316 below the national average.

“The problem here is the state has done nothing to address its byzantine, antiquated, severely broken, but somehow constitutional, school finance system,” the Express-News wrote in its editorial.

And sitting at the top of that state government are Patrick and Abbott, who keep turning their backs on school children and local property taxpayers.

The only way to remedy that is to vote…and Vote Education First!

The state’s war on public education hits home




Spreading lies about teachers and education funding


It was inevitable, about as inevitable as Donald Trump spewing his next lie. Super-wealthy rightwingers who don’t care about public education, except what they can squeeze from it, have organized a campaign of lies against teachers who have been participating in strikes and other demonstrations against the pitiful state of education funding in their states.

The Guardian published a story this week about a “messaging guide” put together to try to turn public sentiment against the teachers and their cause. According to the Guardian, the rightwingers are trying to portray the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and children.

One of the sponsors of this drivel is the Walton Family Foundation, whose benefactors, the family that brought us Walmart, has enriched itself by under-paying thousands of the low-income parents they now purport to care so much about. Other sponsors include the Koch brothers and the billionaire DeVos family, which, like the Walton Foundation, view public schools as privatization opportunities to be harvested, not pathways to success for the children they pretend to champion.

The DeVos family, of course, includes Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education intent on privatizing every school in sight.

All these people are also very anti-union.

The anti-teacher message developers admit that it is “challenging” to deny the fact that schools in many states are in poor financial shape. That’s because the same people who are now attacking the teachers engineered tax cuts that created the funding crises, and that was their intent. Cut funding from public schools, declare them failures and then move in and privatize them.

In the end, all children, including children from low-income families suffer, and profiteers profit.

This is what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his allies have been trying to do in Texas for years. They claim to want to help low-income children with vouchers and corporate charters. But they cut state funding for neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of these children will continue to be educated in overcrowded, under-equipped classrooms. And they force teachers to waste their students’ learning time with preparations for standardized tests.

The privatization people, not coincidentally, are the same people who have been trying to intimidate Texas educators from voting in this year’s elections, and they may be doing the same thing in other states.

Teacher protests are an important step in the fight to save public education from privatization, but the battle ultimately will be won through elections. That is why it is critical that educators turn out in large numbers in this election year and vote for one issue and one issue only – public education.

Vote Education First!



The “best” school district in Texas doesn’t represent Texas


When it comes to educational quality and student success, money does more than just talk. It screams. And I don’t mean just the money spent on education, although that is critical. I also mean the family financial resources available to students.

These facts were emphasized –once again – in an article published this week on 24/7 Wall St., an online site that publishes financial news and opinions on a number of issues, including education. This particular article rated what the author, Mike Sauter, considered the best school district in each of the 50 states, based on school funding, graduation rates, students enrolled in AP classes, student-teacher ratios and various socioeconomic factors, such as student poverty and the education levels of adults living in the district.

The article concluded that the best school district in Texas was Eanes ISD in Austin. With about 8,000 students, Eanes is one of the smaller urban school districts in Texas. It also is one of the wealthiest and whitest.

Some 56 percent of Eanes households make more than $100,000 a year. One-third make more than $200,000. An estimated 86 percent of its students are white. Eanes also has one of the highest graduation rates in the state and one of the highest levels of adult residents with college degrees. That means most Eanes students are from families with comfortable (or better) financial resources and an environment that nurtures educational attainment.

But Eanes ISD doesn’t represent the future of Texas. It doesn’t even represent the present.

Most students in Texas public schools (about 60 percent overall) come from poor families, and most (52 percent) are Hispanic. White, non-Hispanic students accounted for only 28 percent of Texas’ public school enrollment in 2016-17, the most recent data available. Almost 13 percent were African American. The percentage of Hispanic students, in particular, will continue to increase in Texas, as the percentage of Anglo students declines.

Hispanic and African American families have a higher poverty rate than Anglo families, and that poverty makes a significant difference in educational success. Most Eanes families have a legacy of educational attainment, and most Eanes parents can afford the luxury of tutors or whatever it takes to improve the educational outcomes for their children.

Meanwhile, many poverty stricken Hispanic and African American parents in Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, Austin ISD and hundreds of other Texas school districts are too busy holding down two or three jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table and don’t have the money for tutors or the time or educational background for something as simple as helping their children with homework. Many of their children also are having to take jobs that interfere with their school work and put them at risk of dropping out. Inadequate health care also is an issue that affects their educational progress.

Almost one-fifth (19 percent) of Texas students are English language learners, immigrants or the offspring of immigrants, who are going to continue to come to Texas in search of economic opportunity despite all the presidential blathering about a border wall. And how well they are educated will be essential to Texas’ future.

Low-income students and English language learners generally cost more to educate than affluent students, and many of them are in districts that are much poorer than Eanes, districts that don’t have Eanes’ property tax base to help compensate for the inadequate funding they receive from state government.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and their legislative allies, who persist in short-changing Texas’ school children, love Eanes and other property wealthy districts that continue to take up part of the slack for their own neglect. And then they pretend to cry over high property taxes.

I suspect that even the well-heeled taxpayers in Eanes are getting tired of that charade.





That out-of-pocket school supply money really adds up


Sometimes, we neglect to keep track of how the little and the not-so-little things add up, things like the money for which teachers routinely dig into their pockets to purchase supplies for their classrooms because their budget-strapped school districts either can’t afford to or won’t.

It has been generally reported that Texas teachers spend between $500 to $1,000 a year on school supplies without being reimbursed for the expenses, which year in and year out amounts to a significant contribution to public education costs. But how much?

TSTA did the math, which wasn’t complicated. With 350,000 teachers in Texas, their personal contributions for classroom supplies would range from $175 million to $350 million per year, or $350 million to $700 million for each two-year state budget cycle.

That’s a significant subsidy for an inadequate state funding system that Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and their legislative allies refuse to improve. And it’s a subsidy coming from teachers who, on average, are paid about $6,000 less per year than their peers across the country and continue to see their take-home pay eroded by rising health care premiums that the same state officials refuse to address.

TSTA government relations specialist John Grey discussed those figures, among other school funding issues, in testimony at Monday’s Commission on Public School Finance hearing.

“Texas school children deserve better,” Grey said.

And so do the teachers who teach them.



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