Posted Date: 05/14/2021
It is hard to believe we have begun the spring semester of 2019! The new year always brings such hope and inspiration and I am excited to see our students and staff shine this year. School is back in session and we have hit the ground running. In addition to our students digging into the content, we have multiple sports teams competing, our bands and choirs are preparing for many competitions coming up soon, the academic teams are gearing up for spring tournaments, and we even have several robotics teams competing this January against numerous districts in the region. We are so blessed to be able to provide so many exciting, challenging and unique experiences to our students. We know that these experiences provide our students with the opportunities to become well-rounded, resilient, compassionate, competent, and equipped for whatever life brings them.
Of course bringing quality academics to the our students both in the classroom and in the various extra and co-curricular activities costs money. I believe and many agree with me that this is money well spent---on our students and their hopes, dreams, desires, and goals. It is for this reason that I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the current state of school funding. Our classes are back in session in the Pampa ISD, but do you know who else is in session? That’s right---- the Representatives and Senators have convened in Austin and the 86th Legislatives Session is underway as of January 8th! Honestly, I look upon a new legislative session much like I do each new year. I am excited about the possibilities, but I am apprehensive about the unseen changes that are inevitably headed my way.
This legislative session could prove to be historical in that school finance and property taxes are the top priority and will more than likely experience a major over-haul. This could be a good thing, but of course, it could result in more unwelcomed cuts to some school districts. You may have heard that Rep. Dennis Bonnen was unanimously elected Speaker of the Texas House. He didn’t waste any time stating that public school funding is his top priority, in addition to school safety, combating human trafficking and reforming property tax collection. In fact, According to the Texas Tribune, he has replaced the drinking cups in the House members' lounge with new ones reading, "School finance reform: The time is now." I am genuinely excited about the legislators committing themselves to do something about the broken school finance system (it’s only been broken for at least a decade). But I must also share with you that I am deeply concerned that the “fix” to the “broken system” will in fact just leave public schools---broke.
There will be hundreds of bills filed in this session, and many will involve school finance. One such bill is the small and mid-size school adjustment component that currently exists in the funding formula for schools with less than 5000 students. Well, that describes MOST of the schools in Texas. Of the 1200+ school districts in Texas, more than 700 of them have less than 5000 students. This will impact more than half of the districts negatively if the current recommendations were to pass. We are still a long way from the bill passing and I am confident it will change many times before May; however, this one will be critical and has the potential to be devastating for many districts. The phrases that are floating around are “forced consolidation of small districts” and “diseconomy of scale” to name a few.
I have had numerous conversations with Senator Kel Seliger and Rep Ken King about school finance and I feel that they understand the uniqueness of the Panhandle school districts and are armed with the appropriate knowledge and have the best interests of the Panhandle districts in mind. Having said that, I am not naive to the politics that prevails all too often when these elected officials convene and begin trying to solve problems. For now, I am optimistic, hopeful, and confident that we have a voice. But I am watching and I urge you to stay informed, stay engaged, and let your voice be heard.
Published on 01/10/2019