AMARILLO, Tex. –Earlier this week, Governor Rick Perry ceremonially signed the state’s budget into law.
A press release issued by the Governor’s Office on July 19, stated half of the state’s funds were allocated to education. What the release did not say was how much of this was divided between Texas’ school districts and the state’s higher education system.
Reports have been published that as much as six percent annually has been cut from public schools under the budget passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature.
Legislative conservatives and the governor took to heart the sweeping wins TEA Party-backed candidates brought to Austin and did not raise taxes in this session’s budget to cover state expenses. They have, however, depended on some creative funding formulas to lessen the perception of state budget cuts, particularly to education.
Perry outlined the accomplishments of the Texas Legislature in both the signing ceremony in Amarillo and in a video distributed by his office. Perry avoids exact figures regarding the budget’s impact on education in his comments, but Peggy Venable, director of Americans for Prosperity-Texas, said 57 percent of the state’s budget will be used to fund public schools and school districts across the state will see $3 billion more than was budgeted to education in the 81st Legislature’s budget of two years ago.
QUINLAN, Tex. — Texas school districts are set to receive approximately $4 billion fewer dollars from the state following the recent budget passed by the state legislature. This has left most Texans wondering: How does that affect a local school district?
Micheal French, superintendent of Quinlan Independent School District (QISD), explained the state used a “proration-hybrid model” to determine the total amount that would be cut from each district.
“They [the legislature] went to a proration model which is roughly six percent across the board in the first year of the biennium for the Foundation (Schools) Program and, in the second year of the biennium, (Sen. Florence) Shapiro’s (R-Plano) hybrid model basically reduced target revenue based on her version and the (Texas) Senate’s version of a sliding scale,” French said. “It’s not a proportional reduction; it’s a hybrid model.”
Some districts stand to lose more than others.
When looking at the numbers, however, they don’t reconcile. QISD doesn’t show a decrease of six percent in the first year of the biennium. A report from the Legislative Budget Board shows the district losing 2.7 percent of its current funding in the first year. The report shows the district losing 4.1 percent in the second year.
French said these numbers are not correct.
“What they are doing is including the Education Jobs (EduJobs) Bill money in it to make their percentages look better. That was money we were entitled to from the federal government anyway,” French said. “We were going to get that, regardless, so what they did was used federal monies to cover a state obligation.”
The EduJobs Bill was legislation passed by Congress in 2010 that put $10 billion into education. It was an extension of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called stimulus package. Money given to states under these laws were only given for one year.
“People need to understand that money is gone at the end of this school year,” French said.
He said this puts school districts in the situation of not being able to attach recurring expenses, like salaries and benefits, to that money.
“I don’t want to be here this time next year doing a reduction in force (RIF), so we didn’t do that,” French said.
He said the local school board did not include the EduJobs bill money into the local budget to lessen the percentage of total loss to the district. The local district used numbers that represent actual dollars available when setting the 2012 budget.
He also said the six percent loss to districts is only in FSP money.
“We lost a half million dollars a year outside the Foundation and you don’t hear that reported. That’s another million dollar loss.”
Initial budget bills introduced the Texas House of Representatives had Foundation reductions at $8 billion, but the final budget approved had Foundation reductions at $4 billion.
French said “The media and different people got fixated on Foundation reductions, but there was a lot more than the $4 billion.” He said districts lost between $1.9 and $2.3 billion outside the Foundation fund, meaning Texas school districts will lose close to $6 billion total.
QISD will lose between $2.4 and $2.7 million over the next two years when all of the cuts are put into play.
“You’re losing your technology allotment, you’re losing your Pre-K grant money, you’re losing your Student Success Initiative (SSI) money and several things,” he said.
SSI is an initiative implemented by the state to ensure student success at higher grade levels by mandating students earn a minimum passing score on state assessments or not be passed to the next grade. Grade levels included in SSI are third, fifth and eighth. It also includes the exit level test juniors must pass in order to graduate, although the state is phasing in end-of-course exams, which students will have to pass in order to get course credit.
The state, according to French, is still going to hold districts responsible for SSI without the resources to remediate the kids.
From French’s statements, the Texas Legislature, with this session’s budget cuts, appears to have set back public education in the state over 150 years.
In the days of Texas as an independent republic, there were mandatory school attendance laws, but the government failed to budget any money to cover the expenses. Now, while the state is funding education, it is doing so at such severely reduced levels that many districts have already cut staff, even offering incentives last spring for teachers to retire early in order to save jobs.
And, French said, the pain may not be over any time soon.
Update: An update on Sarah Elisabeth’s Facebook page lists production credits as follows: “Original screenplay and story by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer. Producer/Director Lynda Kay Sawyer, Producer/Asst. Director Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer.”
Screenwriter Linda Kay Sawyer has adapted a short story written by her daughter, Sarah Elisabeth, and filming on the script begins this weekend. At this time, the movie is titled “Colors.” Look for an upcoming interview with both writers as they progress with the project.
Christy Nelson and Cindy Rowe prepare for a meal at a food outreach sponsored, in part, by the House of Grace church of Edgewood.
Local residents help the needy in spite of a tough economy
EDGEWOOD, Tex. – Finding resources to assist the needy in a tough economy can be a challenge. Trying to assist the needy in a rural area presents a different set of variable. Combining the two, well, that is a multi-step equation indeed.
The building is located at 106 N. Houston St. in downtown Edgewood.
Cindy Rowe started with a vision that has turned into a community outreach through the House of Grace Church of Edgewood that has served nearly 400 meals since it began in March.
In starting the outreach, Rowe said it was “just a desire to want to help and feed people who were hurting.”
The operation has started out small, operating the second Saturday and feeding an average of 77 people per month. Typically, Rowe starts the day early, preparing the food and getting it ready to pass out to people. She said the outreach has a building that has been made available to it and the original intent was to get people to come there to eat.
“A lot of people are needing it,” she said, “I think they feel ashamed to have to need it and so that makes them not want to come into the building.” So, the outreach takes the meals door-to-door.
Four to five volunteers a month help Rowe distribute the meals and, while much of the money to support the outreach has come from Rowe’s own pocket, donations have been coming in to assist with the feeding.
“We had a man who came by and saw our sign and made a donation and he wasn’t going to our church,” she said.
In June, thanks to the generous donation of food items from a local business, the outreach expanded to offer a non-perishable food pantry to assist residents with food needs.
The resources are coming in to the outreach and Rowe and other volunteers are working the equation, overcoming the tough variables to help the needy in a rural community.
If you need food from the pantry or are interested in volunteering or donating, contact Rowe at (903) 873-8995 or (903) 288-1425. You can also contact Greg Rowe at (214) 264-3381 or the church at (903) 896-7377. Meals are served the second Saturday of each month from 11a.m. until 2 p.m. The pantry is open the same day from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. or by appointment.