Wright optimistic over finance bills
Financial help could be on the way to Fredericksburg and other school districts around the state, if bills being considered by the Texas House and Senate are signed into law.
Dr. Eric Wright, Fredericksburg Independent School District superintendent, told trustees at their Feb. 13 meeting that the proposed “A to F” grading system could also undergo some changes.
Trustees also learned of developments that could bring a dual language program to FISD pre-kindergarten to fifth grade students in a few years.
In the January school board meeting, Wright expressed concern about school finance reform and whether or not the Texas Legislature would make it a priority.
On Monday, Wright seemed more optimistic, noting that the Texas House has already assembled a public education committee.
“The House seems very favorable to public education and school finance,” Wright said.
While the Texas Senate seems cooler to the ideas, Wright did note the senate has proposed bills (SB 704, 192) that would ask the state to fund a certain percentage of public education costs.
“It hasn’t gone to committee yet, so I don’t know how much traction it’ll have, but this would be very beneficial to our school district,” Wright said.
Proposed House bills include reinstating additional state aid for tax reduction (HB 811, 856, 527 and 308) and increasing spending per pupil (HB 1474).
The House bill Wright likes best is one that would do away with the state’s “Robin Hood” program (HB 1319 and 286), where money is taken from property-rich school districts and redistributed to property-poor ones.
“That would be the best of all worlds, but I know that won’t happen,” Wright said. “Hopefully, these bills will go to committee soon.”
In previous budgets, FISD has paid millions annually to the state under Robin Hood rules, while siphoning money from its general fund to balance its books.
Other bills being considered would decrease state testing in State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness and use the SAT and ACT as measures (HB 1191, 1321, 417).
Wright added that despite his and other superintendents’ opposition, the proposed controversial “A to F” grading system for public schools is moving forward.
“Officials said it won’t go away, although they do plan on tweaking it,” Wright said.
He pointed out schools with 100-percent graduation and college attendance rates, under the program, have scored a “C” in college readiness.
“Something’s wrong with the formula,” Wright said. “You’ll see changes, but I don’t think they’ll go away.”
When the senate meets, Wright plans to sit in on sessions and listen to what they discuss.
Dual language program
FISD is closer to implementing a dual language program, said Celina Estrada Thomas, FISD’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
“In two years, I think we’ll be ready to introduce the program,” she said. “I’m excited about that.”
Currently, FISD uses an early exit bilingual program for native Spanish-speaking students transitioning to English-only instruction.
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