Members of the Humble ISD Board of Trustees including Charles Cunningham, Dan Huberty, Dr. Bonnie Longnion, and Robert Scarfo, as well as Superintendent Guy Sconzo, shared their observations from the Legislative Reception in Austin to start the meeting. About 15 PTA members and three Quest students attended the reception. Representatives Senfronia Thompson and Joe Crabb, as well as aides from the offices of Sen. Dan Patrick, Sen. John Whitmire, Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Debbie Riddle also attended.
Members of the Board and Guy noted that:
- They were especially pleased that Rep. Joe Crabb attended.
- The Texas Senate appears to understand and strongly support the need for additional funding and more equalized funding. House members’ efforts are not as cohesive.
- Two bills – which are mirror images of each other – appear to be the ones we need to hang our hat on at this time. They are SB 982 (written by Sen. Van de Putte) and HB 1555 (written by Rep. Diane Patrick). There are no reliable simulations on how the money would flow at this time.
- The last day to file bills is Friday, March 13th.
- It appears that about $4.0 billion in new money will flow into the education system. $6.0 billion is needed to begin to make us whole. The $4.0 billion is a bridge until the funding system can be overhauled.
- The good news is that legislators understand that there are huge disparities in WADA (it varies from around $3,000 to $12,000). This should be more equalized.
- There will always be some weighting due to variations in property wealth in districts, but the disparity is way too large in the current funding system. Legislators understand the need to keep more equitable funding between school districts.
- No more target revenue. This is a good thing.
- No school districts will lose money in SB 982 and HB 1555. Those who have had high funding levels would get smaller increases than districts that have been short changed. That is, some will not gain ground as quickly as others because they have been funded at higher levels in recent years.
- A possible special session is already under discussion. This is due in part to the Federal stimulus package. All that it encompasses – and the strings attached – are still being studied. Communication from Washington has been slow. Once there is more clarity and transparency from the Feds, then the information must be assimilated by those who must administrate it. Bottom Line: It will take time and unless it is done quickly, we may not know in July what our financial picture is going to be when school starts in August. Legislators know – as do we – that we can’t get school finance done right with the stimulus package on the table with more questions than answers at this point.
- The governor has backed off the 65% rule (for instruction) largely thanks to Rep. Rob Eissler from the Woodlands who chairs the Public Education Committee in the House. This definition about what could be counted toward the 65% did not include some rather critical areas such as counselors, librarians and nurses, for example. These kinds of omissions were a sticking point to school districts.
Suggested next steps include:
- Providing the committee with the names and addresses of the House and Senate Education Committee members, as well as with links to the House and Senate directories
- House directory www.house.state.tx.us/members/welcome.php
- Senate directory www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/Senate/Members.htm
- House Education www.house.state.tx.us/committees/400.htm
- Senate Education www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/commit/c530/c530.htm
- Margaret Fraissinet will draft a Letter to the Editor for the local newspapers and for the Houston Chronicle and circulate a signature interest form for committee members who want to have their names included (At this writing, the letter is done and the signature interest process is underway. GO MARGARET!)
- Margaret Fraissinet developed Postcards to send to Legislators. To see/print them visit www.humble.k12.tx.us/pdf/Legislativepostcards.pdf
- Hard copies of the Postcards will be available after Spring Break. Call 281-850-7693 if you need some.
- Visit the 81st Legislature News/Updates site for updates and information at www.humble.k12.tx.us/legislative.htm