Texas Education

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Crabb, Dr. Sconzo and the HB 1 Bill

Posted by Texas Education on November 19, 2008

A dear friend of mine telephoned Rep. Joe Crabb’s office recently to find out how he had voted on the HB1 bill. She was interested because she had just read Dr. Sconzo’s article in the paper on that bill. She was told by his aide that Rep. Crabb had conferred with Dr. Sconzo before the vote and that Dr. Sconzo was very much in favor of it. When she told the aide that she was surprised by that, given the negative impact its passage had on our district, his reply surprised her even further, he claimed that board members told him that “the district’s financial problems were more a result of errors by past school boards than by HB1. Board members said that Kingwood Park should never have been built like it was, that it was a mistake…”. Suffice it to say, my friend was completely shocked by such “candid” remarks.

I don’t want to say I don’t believe a word of that…but! Also, once again, Mr. Crabb sends his lackey to do his bidding, as always.

My friend contacted Dr. Sconzo to get his reply. She told Dr. Sconzo that she is a former educator, a parent of two children who have been in Humble ISD schools for the last 10 years and is very pro-public education. Further, she added that she and her husband have been extremely pleased with the education their children have received in this district, at every level. The impression she got from the telephone conversation with Rep. Crabb’s office was that his vote was based on Dr. Sconzo’s recommendations. She stated that she strongly believes that we should hold our elected officials accountable for their votes and she was just trying to understand how we arrived at our current economic crisis.

She also thought Dr. Sconzo’s article was very informative, but was very confused by the remarks coming from Rep. Crabb’s office. She asked Dr. Sconzo to comment on those remarks and clarify what he believes the focus for the next legislative session should be regarding school finance. Dr. Sconzo thanked her for giving him the chance to share his thoughts, and very much appreciated and valued her for taking the time to get the facts straight. He also was sorry that she received some conflicting information.

With respect to my meeting with Rep. Crabb and his aide prior to the vote on H.B. 1, I vividly recall my openly supporting the teacher salary increase, new $225 per student in grades 9-12 high school allotment, and lowering of the M&O (operating budget) property tax rate to $1.00 with the state paying for the loss of local revenue to school districts for the difference between the $1.50 tax rate and the $1.00 tax rate. I also vividly remember articulating that H.B. 1 was not the long-term fix needed for school finance in our state and that we and virtually all school districts would be in trouble financially and back to the Legislature in 2007 for help.

Knowing our past and current Trustees as I do, I do not at all believe that any Trustee would state or even feel that our financial crisis is the result of mistakes made by previous Boards, rather than H.B. 1. If that were the case, and again, I do not believe that for one moment, then I wonder how the Representative’s office would explain why we are now one of over 200 school districts in the state having to go to our voters for a tax rate election in just two years of the full effect of H.B. 1? I wonder how his office would explain why the majority of school districts state-wide had to adopt deficit budgets this year? Did every school district’s board make a historical mistake, or is H.B. 1 the serious funding problem I contend that it is!

To me, the real issue is not who voted for or against H.B. 1, the issue is what’s the legislative commitment to correcting this state-wide public education funding train wreck? H.B. 1 gave school districts ONLY one means of increasing operating revenue to a level greater than the level of total operating revenue received in 2005-06 and that is to increase the local operating tax rate. Our board exercised that by increasing our operating tax rate from $1.00 to $1.04 by a vote of the Board and now is asking the community to increase it to the state maximum cap of $1.17 in order to avoid an additional $17 million in budget reductions in balancing this year’s budget.

Truly and reasonably fixing H.B. 1 for a long term solution, in my opinion, involves…

  • Allowing school districts to keep any additional local property tax revenue realized by either higher appraised values or new properties on the tax rolls and NOT offsetting those increases dollar for dollar by a reduction in state aid.
  • Closing the equity gap in Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) funding to school districts. Our WADA funding level is $4,937 and Sheldon ISD’s is over $6,100. There is no acceptable reason for that inequity and statewide, the gap in WADA ranges from $4,000 to over $12,000!
  • Building in at least an inflation factor revenue increase for school districts on an annual basis. I used the train wreck analogy because when operating revenue is frozen at the 0-06 level and clearly expenses are not, it is only a matter of time before indeed there is train wreck!
  • Legislators will tell you that we do realize an increase in WADA funding per increases in enrollment, and that is true. However, when our WADA is frozen at the 05-06 level, we get to a place where especially as a fast growth school district, we today receive a WADA of $4,937 as revenue, but our actual operating expenses per student exceed $6,800!

I must commend Dr. Sconzo for his promptness, his complete openness, and how he truly cares about our school district. And I would like to see the board members response to these allegations by Rep. Crabb’s office.

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