Legislative Update | Lewisville ISD
July 21, 2023
Dear Chair Buckley and Members of the House Select Committee on Educational Opportunity and Enrichment:
With a strong economy and workforce in Texas, supported by a public school system educating over five million students, now is the time to continue investing in this system. Before creating a third tax-payer funded education system (traditional public schools, charter schools, education savings accounts), it is incumbent upon this legislature to fund the system that educates the majority of students in Texas.
When Governor Abbott called for the TEA to create a Teacher Vacancy Task Force in March 2022, he recognized the teacher workforce shortage crisis facing public education and the need for solutions to be created. The first item the task force recommended addressing was increased compensation through providing an increase to the Basic Allotment. It is of great urgency and importance with which our state address improving outcomes for Texas public school students by closing the funding gap.
An over-reliance on standardized testing in our state accountability system which provides letter grades to school districts in an effort to address achievement gaps, does not incorporate information related to the funding gap Texas school districts face. According to the 2021 Quality Counts Report by Education Week Research Center, Texas was at the national average for school quality with a rating of a “C”, but for school finance was rated overall with a “ D+” and an “F” specifically related to spending on K-12 education.
Public schools do not operate in a vacuum, rising costs for all industries impact the buying power for school districts in order to provide services to students - addressing safety, mental health, special education, bilingual, accelerated instruction, and more. While there is a weighted funding system for some specialized programs, the weights are based on an underfunded Basic Allotment. Additionally, since the Basic Allotment earned is impacted by absenteeism rates of students, districts do not earn the entire $6,160 per student. For example with a 95% attendance rate the basic allotment drops to $5,852 per student in LISD.
As inflation and costs are soaring, the current Basic Allotment dollars do not stretch as far as they did in 2019.
Property tax compression and an increase in the basic allotment can be accomplished with this surplus. We appreciate the property tax compression for residents within LISD and the use of surplus funds to hold the district harmless from loss of funding due to the compression, but this does not address the unfunded nature of schools with a basic allotment that does not account for inflationary costs.
Meaningfully supporting educators and educational institutions
With no increase to the Basic Allotment, and legislation passed during this session adding to the amount of unfunded mandates for school districts, public schools will be faced with cutting programs and support for teachers and students if emergency action is not taken during a Special Session.
HB 1 provided $2.36B to increase the guaranteed yield on the golden pennies, which increases the burden on districts to go out to their voters for accessing golden pennies through a Voter Approved Tax Ratification Election (VATRE). In LISD, our Board of Trustees has worked diligently to maintain a low tax rate for taxpayers and by not having a VATRE is not able to access $50M in state funding from the golden and copper penny yield. When the Basic Allotment is not addressed, then property tax compression is negatively impacted when school districts are forced to access additional funding through the golden and copper pennies.
The Texas public school system has been built and regulated by the laws and rules passed over 88 legislative sessions. It is not educational freedom to provide taxpayer funding to opt out of this state regulated educational system. In fact, a voucher/educational savings account system takes more power away from parents when schools are not required to educate the students that are wanting to attend. If the goal is for parents to have freedom from the regulations that public schools are required to follow as a result of receiving state and federal funding, then shouldn’t the first priority be to find out what regulations can be changed that would allow public schools to meet the needs of their local communities, parents and guardians? The weight of federal and state regulations that public schools are under are both bankrupting the system and eroding local control of public education. At a minimum, any individual that receives taxpayer money for obtaining an education should be required to follow the same regulations and requirements that public schools are held to and any dollar figure determined for an educational savings account that is above what public schools are currently funded at should be provided to public schools also.
Modernizing assessment and accountability measures for Texas schools educating K-12 students
According to the Measure What Matters report from Raise Your Hand Texas, 100% of elementary and middle school accountability ratings are based on STAAR scores. The report also states that 83% of Texans polled do not believe that public schools should be graded entirely on STAAR performance. If poll data is being used to implement decisions such as education savings accounts, then shouldn’t poll data be used to create a new accountability system in Texas? With the exodus of great educators leaving the profession, shouldn’t we all have as our top priority to take care of the children of Texas and determine how we can measure what matters in our schools? In LISD, we have a 92% parent approval rating for the communication they receive in our district which includes our locally created accountability reports for our parents and community and we would welcome you to visit our website: www.lisd.net/profiles
According to Educational Accountability 3.0: (Educational Accountability 3.0: Beyond ESSA. (2023). Beyond Test Scores Project and National Education Policy Center:
Measures of school quality under NCLB and ESSA have placed an outsized emphasis on test scores, at the expense of other important measures (Lee & Lee, 2020; National Research Council, 2011; Schneider, 2017). This test-driven accountability policy has failed to encompass a whole-child development approach, including non-cognitive measures of achievement such as socioemotional skills, mental and physical well-being. This narrow set of measures also has failed to highlight the lack of resources and supports needed to improve student outcomes and close racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps (Kirsh & Braun, 2016; Lee & Wong, 2004).
One of the recommendations indicated accountability systems should include reciprocal accountability. A system’s demands on schools must be linked to the provision of capacity, support, and resources from elected officials. Currently accountability systems are unidirectional holding school systems accountable for meeting demands regardless of the provision of resources in order to meet those demands.
We look forward to this committee bringing forth recommendations that utilize a historic surplus to invest in ALL of the students of Texas that are educated through the public school system.
With appreciation for your service,
CC: Senators representing LISD (Senator Parker, Senator Springer); House Representatives representing LISD (Representative Bumgarner, Representative Capriglione, Representative Hayes, Representative Patterson, Representative Thimesch)
Information below consists of details from the associated fiscal notes of the legislation:
HB 1 provided $2.36B to increase the guaranteed yield on the golden pennies, which increases the burden on districts to go out to their voters for accessing golden pennies through a Voter Approved Tax Ratification Election (VATRE) and rewards those school districts that have held VATRE’s. In LISD, our Board of Trustees has worked diligently to maintain a low tax rate for taxpayers and by not having a VATRE is not able to access $50M in state funding from the golden and copper penny yield. When the Basic Allotment is not addressed, then property tax compression is negatively impacted when school districts are forced to access additional funding through the golden and copper pennies.
HB 1605 puts $800M towards a lower ranked priority from the teacher vacancy task force than compensation. Additionally, this dollar amount assumes the Texas Education Agency (TEA) adding 74 full time positions to administer the requirements of this bill at a cost of $8.9M annually.
HB 3 is not providing the funding for armed security personnel and we have estimated for LISD it will cost about $3-$4M in addition to what we were already spending to provide this for our schools. HB 3 funding currently is estimated to provide $1.5M for LISD, which will not come close to addressing $6M in safety spending that will be necessary as we implement HB 3 requirements. The fiscal note on HB 3 provides 45 full time positions for TEA at a cost of $6.4M and provides 30 vehicles for TEA at an initial cost of $3.8M. Finally, the $1.1B HB 3 provides to TEA to administer to schools through grants and technical support is not addressing that school districts were underfunded for school safety prior to the 88th legislative session convening.
HB 1416 fiscal states no significant fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated and provides for additional staff and resources for TEA. HB 4545 (the precursor to HB 1416) passed in the 87th Legislative Session also indicated in fiscal notes there would be no significant fiscal implication to units of local government, however LISD spent $2M to pay staff to implement the accelerated instruction requirements. With ESSER money not continuing for the upcoming biennium there is not a funding source for HB 1416. It is absolutely false to indicate that providing instructional intervention for students does not cost school districts.
HB 114 fiscal note states no significant fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated, however, this recent legislation creates an increase of mandatory DAEP and/or ISS placements (depending on capacity) for e-cigarette possession. These mandatory placements require an increase of staff and teachers on each campus to instruct a drastic increase in assigned students, while LISD’s current robust drug prevention programs, aimed at educating students and their parents on the harmful effects of nicotine, currently combat these behaviors.
HB 3928 Dyslexia bill - this fiscal note indicates there is no significant impact but special education in Texas is already underfunded. The Texas Commission on Special Education found that $1.8B needs to be invested in order to address the funding gap school districts face when providing services to students and support for educators delivering these services. In LISD, we spend approximately $4M more on Special Education services than we are funded for from state and federal funds.
From the beginning, Lewisville Independent School District has committed to ensuring all students are confident, equipped with the knowledge and skills to thrive and adapt for their future. Visit Best Schools in Texas for more information about joining the LISD family. Need this update in a different language? Visit LISD.net/translate.