Dear old Golden Rule days – Part four
By D S Gands
Jul 24, 2003
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In the last two weeks while researching this series, I have read that Texas has the second best student testing program in the nation per The Princeton Review, and that Texas is among a handful of states that has come the farthest in raising student standards and achievement.  Texas has a history of serving as a model of reform for other states,” as reported by Achieve, Inc., a non-profit bipartisan organization.

I went to the Texas Education Agency Performance Report website to search by county and review the performance and accounting of schools in North Texas.  Grayson County has thirteen school districts.  Most of the small to mid-sized Districts rated ‘Recognized’ or ‘Exemplary’.  One school in the county rated ‘Academically Acceptable’.  The smaller schools such as Tom Bean ISD, Whitewright ISD, and Gunter ISD were all rated Exemplary.  The smaller school districts do not have the property tax base of some of the larger, more affluent cities, but they are obviously making the most of what they have and are receiving.

Governor Perry has pledged to eliminate the ‘Robin Hood’ school finance system.  The question is what will replace it?

For equity in the public school system, funds are disbursed to the districts to insure that those that do not have the funding available can offer and equitable education to the students of their district.  Property taxes have been steadily climbing to meeting the requirements mandated for our school system to attain.   Phrases such as ‘ability to pay’ have been used in describing property owners, but a look at the statistics will show that base is declining.

A comparison of the Bonham ISD funding tables shows a decline in revenue available from the 2001-02 school year to the 2002-03 school year.  The report available on the TEA website indicates that BISD had the same number of students enrolled for the two school terms, funds declined, and the student base requiring assistance (such as free or reduced meals) increased by approximately 3% of the total students enrolled.  These statistics would indicate that 3% of the area households had a decline in income, and taxes were raised to compensate for a reduced tax base, and reduced aid from state funds.

The declines reduced expenditures, per student, for a school term by $65.  In the 2001-02 term, BISD spent $5279 per student for a total of approximately $100K less than the available revenue.  In 2002-03, BISD spent $5214 per student, which totaled approximately $1000 over the available revenue.  In other words, they spent more than was made available during that year.  Most of the Bonham schools are rated Academically Acceptable, with the High School being rated Exemplary.

There are many variables in the way school districts are financed and operated.  Intense dedication to achieve the very best possible educational goals is essential in assuring success in performance ratings.  A major ingredient in the program is involvement of parents and the community as a whole in the education of the children of that district.

In Whitesboro, the new principal of one section of the Elementary School is Kathleen Kamphaus.  Her dedication to excellence for the school is contagious.  Mrs. Kamphaus has been working on implementing a model project at the new Elementary facility in collaboration with the Grayson County 4-H Curriculum Enrichment Program.  The overall program includes a complete set of parental guidance informationals in both English and Spanish for the children to take home and share with their families which are dispersed on a specific schedule each week.  The model project will include a series of curriculum enrichment projects, which are available at no charge in most every case that will have the entire school student body enrolled in the 4-H program for the school year.

The Parent Teacher Organization of Whitesboro will be a resource for volunteers to support the program throughout the year.  (If you would like information about projects for your school in Grayson County, Contact the County Extension Agent, Joyce White, at 903-813-4201, in the Old Courthouse on the Square in Sherman, or your County Extension Agent in your county of residence regarding the availability of these projects and programs.)

The most recent school funding and tax suit placed before the Texas Supreme Court, was initiated in the Travis County District Courts in 2001.  The Appellate Court dismissed the case, and Justice Smith affirmed the ruling, but the Opinion, issued just two months ago, has a great deal of law quoted and concerns expressed about the current system.  If you are a hardcore school finance reform follower, it would be worth reviewing.

The Texas Legislature is continuing the debate on School Finance Reform in Austin.  Until our State officials prepare and implement a plan that can relieve the property tax burdens and properly fund our public schools, we must provide support to our local schools, educate ourselves about the needs for the school finance system, and participate in the process in Austin.

Under the current financial burdens and strains, education has become a painful and stressful issue.  Dear Old Golden Rule Days should be the memories our children have of their educational experience.  It should be a positive and rewarding experience.   They are the responsibility of every citizen of Texas.  It should be an honor and a privilege to do so. 

 Copyright 2003 by D.S. Gands, All rights reserved

D.S. Gands is a freelance writer living in North Texas.  The opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of this publication.  If you would like to see this or other articles by D.S. Gands appear in your favorite publication, ask the editor to contact regarding available reprint or syndication rights.