School officials mull funding at state level
A three-hour meeting between school officials and State Rep. Kyle Biedermann brought perspective to what different-sized districts deal with as the state struggles to answer school funding issues.
Fredericksburg Independent School District board of trustees discussed that, along with drug test results at its regular meeting Monday at the FISD Administration Building.
FISD board members Kerinne Herber, Brian Lehne and Dale Geistweidt attended a meeting in the Boerne ISD with members from that district, Harper ISD Supt. Chris Stevenson, and board members Loretta Eckert and Tina Bernhard, as well as trustees from the Comal ISD.
“It was a good perspective to hear what large, mid-sized and smaller districts face,” Herber said. “One of the representatives had a recommendation on the flexibility of spending, such as CTEC (Career and Technical Education Center) funding or special needs spending.”
Herber said Biedermann wanted to explore new ways to fund public schools, including the possibility of expanding the sales tax, so not to be dependent solely on property taxes.
Dale Geistweidt pressed Biedermann on House Bill 21, which would have provided additional funding for districts until the state figures out a more stable funding formula.
“Part of his reasoning, I guess, in voting against it, was that he didn’t want to just throw money at the problem,” Geistweidt said. “He also commented that my vote against it didn’t matter because it passed.”
Brian Lehne, elected in May, said that in spite of Boerne ISD having twice the student population, BISD’s remittance to the state for the “Robin Hood” payment was only $1 million more than FISD ($9 million, compared to FISD’s $8 million).
Herber said all districts were surprised that FISD has 55 percent of its students classified as economically disadvantaged and qualifying for free or reduced lunch.
Geistweidt said he also quizzed Biedermann on why he is pro-voucher, and the representative cited the majority of his constituents supporting such.
“I haven’t seen that in the polls I’ve seen,” Geistweidt said.
“One of the biggest surprises to me was the fact that all Robin Hood payments made by Chapter 41 schools were not being allocated to public education,” Biedermann said in a news release. “I will be looking into that immediately.”
Supt. Eric Wright noted the Texas Legislature’s special session begins Tuesday. The chairman of House public education committee Dan Huberty said he would attach a school finance bill to a property tax bill.
“Hopefully it will receive some attention,” Wright said. “I feel like the House and Speaker (Joe) Straus have some leverage. The governor and lieutenant governor are spending almost $1 million on this special session …. As a result, they’re going to have to work together, because if they don’t, it will make them look bad in the eyes of Texas.”
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