|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Funding inequity driving LISD woes
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Public school students in Livingston and throughout Texas are succeeding, despite the fact that the Lone Star state ranks 44th in the nation in public school spending. Texas’ graduation rates are rising and already exceed the national average of 73.9 percent, Livingston ISD superintendent Dr. Darrell Myers told board members Monday. Texas’ fourth and eighth graders also exceed the average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Math and English, even though they have the highest percentages of students with limited English proficiency, economically disadvantaged families and parents who do not have a high school diploma, Myers said. Myers went on to list a number of areas where Texas students are outpacing others across the nation throughout all ethnic subpopulations. The current crisis in public school finance is a direct result of a revenue shortfall created by the school finance reform passed in 2006. Myers presented a letter from Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the Texas Comptroller at that time, spelling out the financial doom that lay ahead for Texas public schools. “In 2007, your plan is $3.4 billion short; in 2009 it is $5.4 billion short; in 2010 it is $4.9 billion short and it 2011 it is $5 billion short,” Strayhorn wrote. “She called it almost to the penny,” Myers said. “At best, your plan is a prelude to another huge tax bill in the next regular session, one that will not only be heaped on Texas businesses but will fall heavily on the same taxpayers you claim to be helping now. At worst, it will relegate Texans to Draconian cuts in critical areas like education and health care for at least a generation. This is not a victory for taxpayers. It is a sham, and Texans will see it for what it is,” Strayhorn said. LISD officials said Monday their latest forecast shows they can balance the budget for the 2011-2012 school year aided by the number of employees who took advantage of the early exit notice stipend. Several of those employees are maxed out at the top of the professional staff pay schedule, so any new employees that need to be hired will earn smaller salaries. Myers also shared a breakdown of how a dollar in revenue is divided among the various functions in the district. Teacher salaries 50 cents Transportation 7 cents Facility maintenance and technology infrastructure 9 cents. Food service 6 cents Lights, heating and cooling 3 cents Security and nursing 1 cent Curriculum and training for professional staff 1 cent Library 1 cent Counseling programs 3 cents Campus administrators and administrative staff 5 cents District Administrators 2 cents Extracurricular 5 cents Appraisal district, Community services, district fees and dues 3 cents Special services and alternative education 4 cents. Many of the funding formulas used to determine how state money is divided among districts have not been updated in more than a decade. Some — such as bilingual education and small district adjustments — date back to 1984. Myers capped off his presentation to the board, which was also delivered to the Republican Club recently, by saying good news about public schools is not reported because its success suits no one’s political agenda.