Saturday, February 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Interesting (potentially positive) school finance indicators

"Train up a child in the way he should go,'
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

It's difficult to know how much to read into them, but three noteworthy developments this week.
  1. Dan Huberty quoted on Twitter:

    To which we will add: We ran into Chairman Huberty a few hours after this tweet was posted. Since we didn't ask about putting the conversation on the record, we'll keep the details private. Suffice to say, it was consistent with the sentiment expressed above.

    Compared to last session, coming from Dan Huberty, this is huge.

    Too soon to tell whether this is flattery or genuine.  Even in a worst case scenario, however, for Dan Huberty to flatter our concerns illustrates a changed dynamic.  We'll know in June.
  2. TPPF releases public education plan:
    TPPF Unveils Six Point Public Education Plan
    AUSTIN— Today, Senior Education Policy Advisor Kara Belew testified before members of the House Committee on Public Education on the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s public education plan, Right on Education: Texas’ Agenda to Restore Money to the Classroom and Eliminate the Main School Property Tax.

    “The key components of the TPPF public education agenda are ensuring school boards set student outcomes goals, provide merit pay for teachers, and focus on improving civics education,” said Belew. “TPPF looks forward to working with state leaders this session on innovative ideas that will improve student outcomes while lowering the property tax bills of families across Texas.” 

    The six components of the public education agenda are:
    1. Direct school boards, principals, and teachers to establish goals and monitor the progress of their schools’ and students’ reading and math outcomes
    2. Direct school boards to adopt merit pay programs for Texas’ most effective principals and teachers and support their curriculum success in the classroom
    3. Empower parents to ensure their children have a civics education focused on the founding principles of America
    4. Eliminate the maintenance and operations (M&O) school property tax in order to significantly reduce each family’s property tax burden
    5. Stop taxpayer-funded lobbying
    6. Give parents the opportunity to trigger school district efficiency audits to improve the use of taxpayer money
  3. Senate to explore superintendent salaries:
    At a time when most of the clamor regarding education in the Texas Capitol is about “more money,” one lawmaker is filing legislation to encourage existing education dollars to be spent more wisely; specifically, when it comes to compensating our schools’ top administrators.

    Republican State Sen. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels recently filed a package of bills aimed at reining in out of control contracts for superintendents of Texas’ public schools. Senate Bills 721, 722, and 723 would cap the salaries and severance packages afforded to superintendents, as well as make most of the details surrounding their employment publicly and easily available.


    Senate Bill 721 would cap the salaries of superintendents at 150 percent of the governor’s salary. Currently the Governor of Texas makes $150,000 annually, which would subsequently cap superintendents’ salaries at no more than $225,000 per year.

    According to the Texas Education Agency’s Superintendents’ salary tool, 135 School Districts across the state were compensating their superintendent’s north of the proposed cap during the 2017-2018 school year. Many salaries soar past the proposal level, with several approaching nearly double that amount.

    Senate Bill 722 caps the dollar amount an administrator can be paid on their way out the door, and Senate Bill 723 would make information like salary, bonuses, benefits, and reimbursements available for taxpayers to see on the district’s website.
    This is a sea change from last session, when even the Senate (while doing other things we like) wouldn't touch this issue.

    Speaking in Capitol euphemisms, perhaps it's time to "begin the conversation."
Bottom Line: This issue remains in flux.  Potential outcomes could range anywhere from the very negative to the modestly positive.  But this week's developments strengthen the case for the latter.

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