The 85th session of the Texas legislature adjourned this year without addressing the crisis in K-12 education funding.
Texas ranks 45th out of 50 states in per student funding, while Fredericksburg Independent School District (FISD) has not had an increase in per-student funding in 10 years.
Property taxes have grown every year, but the state requires us to send the increased revenue to the state.
In 2017, recapture payments are estimated to be $8.5 million in 2017-2018 and the state is ending what is known as the Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) this year, which will decrease revenue to the district by an additional $800,000. ASATR was a promise from the legislature back in 2005 to make up the difference in revenue caused by the compression of the maintenance and operations tax during that year. The state has decided to no longer keep this promise.
The lack of adequate funding from the state has led to FISD budget deficits in recent years. We have chosen to run the deficits in order to keep compensation levels at least above inflation rates, with the expectation that the legislature would fix the funding crisis soon.
They have not fixed the crisis and we can no longer sustain budget deficits without getting our fund balance too low. Thus, we are making cuts that will move us toward a balanced budget. Those cuts include a reduction in personnel through attrition, along with the elimination of any pay raises this coming year.
Prior to this legislative session, school personnel from a wide range of school districts met with legislative house leaders and helped craft House Bill 21 which would have led to an increase in funding to FISD. This would have been sufficient for us to offer pay increases and sufficient to prevent the need for the personnel cuts we are now making.
This would have involved pulling $1.6 billion out of the state’s $11 billion economic stabilization fund which is now rapidly growing due to increased activity in the oil and gas sectors.
The state House passed the bill overwhelmingly, but our state representative Kyle Biedermann voted against it.
The Senate version, which our state senator Dawn Buckingham supported, provided for no increase in state funding for K-12 education.
The two houses of the legislature could not agree on a compromise and thus the K-12 funding crisis continues with no increase in per student funding.
According to Gallup, 71 percent of Texas residents view their public schools as good or excellent, which is a better perception than two-thirds of the states in the country. However, we will not be able to maintain quality K-12 education with per student funding levels at the bottom 10 percent of the states.
We are very proud of the performance of our students at FISD schools. Although 54 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged, we have a 98-percent graduation rate and our students perform significantly above the state averages for SAT, ACT and STARR tests. Our top academic students are going to top colleges (including Harvard, West Point, UT, A&M), and we are preparing our vocationally oriented students for an increasingly wide range of occupations.
Our ability to maintain a quality teacher core and quality programs which are necessary to achieve these quality results is threatened by the lack of state funding.
We will be looking for other innovative ways of providing local funding for our public schools, including the possible formation of a local education foundation.
Your elected officials will be returning for a special called legislative session in July, and we respectfully request that you ask them to revisit school finance and come up with a viable solution.
FISD board members are: