MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, MORE ACCOUNTABILITY

Today, June 28, 2012, our local paper ran a story covering the press conference for the “Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce” and a very familiar name popped up, Bill Hammond. Mr. Hammond is once again attempting to paint Public Education Professionals as the bad guys that do not want our school children to be successful. The way I read the article, Hammond makes three points that are worth rebuttal.

• Educators have “demonized the test”, “gone about scaring Mom that Johnny is not going to UT”
• “Superintendents are worried that the test will show their school is not well prepared for exams
• 15% rule is designed to ensure that students take the End of Course Exam (EOC) seriously.

To the first point let me assure whoever may be reading this that White Oak ISD and districts across the state are not opposed to the assessment of students. We are not opposed to being held accountable to the taxpayers of our districts for the responsibility of educating ALL of our children. STAAR/EOC accomplishes neither of the statements above. It is a $500 million dollar, 45 day calendar killer that takes a snapshot of how our students performed on bubble sheet multiple choice tests. It is a 20th Century education tool in a 21st Century world. We can and should do better for our students. Give back the 45 days a year for testing. Give back the days spent preparing for the test, (Yes, we do that. If we don’t, your child does not promote to the next grade and/or graduate). Let us teach the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) with greater rigor and relevance. Let us include the higher level thinking skills, collaborative learning techniques, and hands on projects that will actually prepare a student for college and career success. Mr. Hammond’s answer to student’s not doing well on a test prepared by an overseas company is to make the test harder and give it again. If he was a coach and his player could not lift 150 pounds, his plan would be to put 200 pounds on the bar and try again. When the lift is unsuccessful, Mr. Hammond would announce that the player is weaker than ever before. We are not demonizing the test or scaring mom about college. We are saying the assessment system DOES NOT WORK. The past twenty-five years are a perfect example that more testing does not bring about positive results. TEACHING should be the focus and testing should be one of many tools.
To the second point, REALLY!! Superintendents and their districts have been held accountable in the most unrealistic manner imaginable for the past 25 years. STAAR/EOC is nothing new in the world of high stakes test accountability. Ratings are based on a single day window and assigned based on the results of lowest performing sub-population of students numbering 30 or more. What is there to be afraid of? White Oak ISD teaches every student all year long. We have and will always do well in the world of “window testing”. It will be addressed but will not be the driving force of our district. When you are at the local level, you know the effort being put forth by your team. I am fully confident that when our scores come in on any assessment, we will have given our best effort and we will take the results and continue to teach our students to the best of our collective ability. Again, we are not in fear of the test, we are not in fear of the results. We are tired of wasting valuable time and energy on a system that does not work and is not relevant to the needs of the students we work with every day.
To the last point concerning the 15% rule, Local Control. To say that a student needs this extra incentive to put forth their best effort is truly insulting to students. If we continue to administer EOC’s, how much more incentive do you need than, don’t pass-don’t graduate? This is actually another effort to remove any level of local control from your school district. Never before in the history of public education has the legislature tried to control the actual grade book in the classroom. Set course passing standards, yes. Set graduation requirements, yes. Set attendance requirements, yes. Control the grade of a student in the local classroom, no. What possible benefit is this to the state or the process of preparing students for life after High School?
Bill Hammond is about big business and big money. For Mr. Hammond to call a press conference and call for no increase in funding a school system that increases by 85,000 students per year is irresponsible. To tie funding to the continuation and/or increase in an out-dated and ineffective assessment system is also irresponsible. I have been a Professional Educator in thee Texas Public School System for 31 years. I am unashamed to be extremely bias in my positive opinion concerning students, teachers and the level of success that is achieved in the Texas Public Schools. There is no better place to invest the revenue of the State of Texas than in the Texas Public School System. There are no finer people to trust with the future of our youth than the Professional Educators in our Public Schools. If the Legislature, Business Community and Taxpayers truly want to see the Texas Public School System excel, return to the model that was intended when the system was created. Let the community make the decisions concerning what is best for their students. Local Control, Local Accountability and Local Pride in the product that graduates each and every year is the best answer to the current issues that we face in education. Professional Educators in the State of Texas are trained and ready to meet the challenges of providing a 21st Century Education. The top down control proponents do not want to surrender the tight fisted control they have designed through this standardized assessment model. They need to be encouraged to do so in the polling places every time we have elections.

Accountability

Accountability in Texas Public Schools

What has happened in the last few weeks? Commissioner Scott calls the assessment system a perversion of its intended purpose and wants to suspend the 15% rule for this year’s ninth graders. Bill Hammond (Texas Association of Business) spends TAB funds for a full page ad in the Austin paper to denounce the Commissioner and call for all to press on to a better education. Senator Shapiro first calls for the Commissioner to explain himself and then writes a letter to inform him that he does have the authority to suspend the 15% rule.
This is really good stuff for those that want to write about opposing views on what is best for the students of the Texas Public Schools. Bill Hammond and many of the state’s legislators favor the full implementation of the STAAR/EOC Assessment process developed under the watchful eye of Pearson Education. Students will be rigorously tested in the four core course areas from 3rd grade through 11th grade. Students will be expected to test at grade level for the most part regardless of any learning disabilities identified by the local school district. 9th through 11th grade students will be given 12 End Of Course Exams that must be passed for graduation and the EOC scores will be recorded as 15% of the course grade. This plan as mandated by the state, prepared by Pearson and supported by Bill Hammond will allow the State of Texas to produce World Class Graduates in the areas of Bubble Sheet Multiple Choice Test Taking, Speed Composition Writing/Editing. Our graduates will have a strong background in steering away from courses that will make it difficult to graduate. They will be experts at the process of dealing with stress; after all, they have been exposed to “High Stakes Testing” since they were in the third grade. This is the Vision for a World Class Education in Texas.
A consortium of North Texas superintendents composed a letter that describes the vision most school leaders would like to pursue for the students of this state. (http://www.tasanet.org/images/gr/2012/consortium.pdf) Instead of isolation and bubble testing, we would like to use collaborative learning environments. Instead of four hour timed writing sessions, we would like to incorporate project based learning assignments. Instead of 45 days of assessment on the calendar of a 180 school year, (including the 10% allotment for benchmark testing, 35% of the school year is earmarked for assessment), we want the flexibility to teach Career and Technology skills that can be used to continue a student’s education and/or enter the job market with employable skills in place. Instructional leaders and School Board Members across the state want the return of LOCAL CONTROL of our local schools. The practice of continual increases in state mandates and freezing/reduction of funds to meet those requirements is an unacceptable combination. Texas Public Schools have never been opposed to assessment and/or accountability. The new system goes far beyond the limit of any system meant to measure progress. Let the local school districts teach their students. Use random sample assessment statewide to ensure the curriculum expectations are being met. Let ACT and SAT exams determine college readiness standards and allow parents to hold their local schools accountable if graduates can’t perform in college or the workplace. The call to arms for school improvement always goes back to the era where public school system was “the best in the world”. That was also the era of total local control and accountability to the taxpayer of the local district. Times have changed, funding is more complicated and our students are receiving an education that is by far greater in scope and depth than ever before. We are still a leader in the education of all students. The pubic school systems of the State of Texas and the United States are the pioneers of education for all. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and the world has used the US model to improve the educational opportunities for children on every continent.
Every time a Texas School Superintendent engages in a conversation about school improvement and school finance, he/she is quickly labeled as a whiner just looking for more money to throw at the same old way of doing business. The truth is we want a level playing field for our students. We want the chance to put our young people in front of new age technology and allow them to hone the skills that will make them successful 21st century citizens. We want to do that which is our passion, provide the platform for success that each of our students deserves. The message I have for my legislators, Senator Kevin Eltife, Representative David Simpson and his opponent Tommy Merritt is this:
1. The current STAAR/EOC assessment plan has to go. It is 20th Century thinking in a 21st Century world. Work with the leaders of the public schools and models that are in place around the world and build something that is truly best for students and not in the best interest of business partnerships.
2. Tackle the funding crisis for Texas Public Schools. Target Revenue, Hold Harmless Values and a $6,000 funding gap per student must go away. Create an Equitable Funding system for the students of the State of Texas and do it without having to be sued in court!!
I am a Texas Public School Person! I have been in this business for 31 years. The two items above are my sole concern for the next legislative session. I have no desire to weigh in on pot holes in the streets, bridges that are weak or which town in Texas is the birthplace of Swing! (All bills in the last session) I know that there are people that find these issues to be valuable and they need to make their voices heard. I want you to focus on the Public Schools of Texas. I want you to focus on the Public Schools of Texas in January, not May. In case you made it all the way to the end of this column, thank you for your time.

Why should White Oak ISD join the Equity Center School Finance Lawsuit?

The Board of Trustees for the White Oak Independent School District approved a resolution to join the Equity Center in litigation requiring the state of Texas to fundamentally change the way Texas Public Schools are funded. It is unfortunate, but the Texas Legislature historically is reluctant to change without litigation. The purpose of this legal action is to create a fair/equitable/adequate system of public school finance.
Let me try to give you a quick history of how we arrived at a place where this lawsuit is necessary.
• 2005 – Legislators make the decision to compress the property tax rate by 33%. The maximum tax rate becomes $1.00 per $100.00 value and districts can add 4 pennies to that amount. The state plans to make up the difference (33% loss) with a margins tax on businesses in Texas. That choice leads to a structural deficit of 10 billion dollars over the next 6 years and sets the stage for the shortfall that was addressed in the 82nd Legislature.
• With a full understanding that the margins tax was not going to fund schools as required by the Texas State Constitution, lawmakers came up with the plan to create Hold Harmless/Target Revenue funding values for all but the lowest funded schools in the state. These values were assigned to districts according to 2005/2006 values and have not changed in six years. Districts do not benefit from increases in property values or new businesses that move into the district. Under target revenue, new money that increases local school revenue, decreases state revenue in equal portions. Commonly referred to as “zip code values”, schools have been funded on a per student value that ranges from less than $4,000 per student to over $12,000 per student. The value of a student varies in such random manner that the children in adjoining districts are funded at values more than a $1,000 apart.
• With this information in mind, the 82nd Legislature met and decided the best way to deal with the self-inflected 10 billion dollar structural deficit would be to cut everyone equally. The term that was used was “share the pain”. There was no acknowledgement that the low target revenue schools had been “sharing the pain” since 2005/2006 and high funded districts had yet to experience any discomfort! The Target Revenue system that is blatantly in-equitable is scheduled to be discussed by the legislative body in 2017, three legislative sessions down the road.
• The 82nd Legislature developed a budget that did not meet the Constitutional requirements to fund Texas Public Schools. The budget was 4 billion dollars short of the states obligation. At the same time, there was 9 billion dollars in the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) that could have been used to bridge the gap. Instead of using available funds, the legislature voted to amend/suspend the constitution and give them the freedom to approve a budget that otherwise would have been in violation of Texas law.

With that information in mind, let me give you the information that is applicable to White Oak ISD.
• WOISD is in the bottom 18% of Target Revenue School Districts in the state. If we had been assign a value equal to the average district’s target revenue, we would receive an extra $250,000 in state and local funds.
• WOISD has a yield per penny of tax at $49. This is on the low end of the scale and includes the extra revenue provided from the 13 cents voters approved by the Tax Rate Election in 2007. Local tax payers add $637.00 of funding per student in WOISD. The budget cuts of 2011 decreased our local contribution by over $70,000. These were locally approved funds and state lawmakers decided to reduce that loss by issuing a one time payment of $30,000. Over two years, that is $110,000 short!
• White Oak ISD is one of more than 250 school districts that operate at a $1.17 tax rate for maintenance and operations. The vast majority of the districts that have voted to approve the TRE are low target revenue schools. Districts with high target revenue can generate more funds with a lower tax rate.
• White Oak ISD does not have a large bonded debt for new construction. The last construction project in WOISD was 1999. The last instructional facility built in White Oak was completed in the mid 1980’s. The district has not been wasteful of the tax payer’s money.

There are six East Texas school districts that rank in the top 25% of Target Revenue Funding. What would it mean to White Oak ISD to be funded at the level fo one of those schools:

District Increase in T.R. Increase in Revenue
Tenaha ISD $892 $1,516,400
Yantis ISD $1,025 $1,742,500
Hallsville ISD $1,199 $2,038,300
Arp ISD $1,398 $2,376,600
Carthage ISD $2,009 $3,415,300
Beckville ISD $2,069 $3,517,300

Two points need to be made about this data. First, I do not believe any of these districts are overfunded by the state. They are using the funds made available to them to meet the needs of their students. Second, these districts do not get to keep all of the funds generated in their local communities. They are Chapter 41 Districts and send money to the state in the form of “recapture” or Robin Hood payments. The system is broken top to bottom and there has been little to no interest in addressing the problem by the state legislature. In the process of creating a new equitable funding system, some districts will see a decrease in funding. The greater goal is to see all students in the state funded at a level that will ensure their opportunity to experience success. Texas is currently the 2nd wealthiest state in the Union (Gross Domestic Product, US Census) and ranks between 37th and 44th in funding per student in Public Education. (politicalfact.com) The 4 billion dollars in cuts approved for the current budget could move the state to 49th in per student spending.
The leadership of the White Oak Independent School District corporately believes it is time to call for a change in this system. It is not something that can wait until 2017, or longer. The board has approved joining and financially supporting the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition. For a one time fee of $1,700.00 (one dollar per weighted average daily attendance) this coalition will petition the state to develop a new funding system that fairly compensates all school districts in a way that allows for the provision of a world class education for all students. This will include fairness for the taxpayer who wants to see his/her dollars put to work in an equitable manner. The key points to the litigation and more detailed financial information can be found on the Equity Center Website, http://www.equitycenter.org/. White Oak ISD has also posted the Equity Center Power Point Presentation on the district’s website (www.woisd.net) I will be happy to visit with anyone individually or in groups that would like more information about the lawsuit and/or White Oak ISD’s participation in the process.

Letter to Legislators

Representative Simpson and Senator Eltife,
I have just returned from Senior Celebration, a program designed to
honor the graduating class of White Oak High School. Each year we
honor the senior class by allowing them to share special
accomplishments and memories from their time at White Oak. During the
program parents and community members heard many wonderful stories of
favorite teachers, classes that will prepare them for the future,
trips, sports, band and other UIL events that will forever be a part
of their life memories. I watched as our students were presented in
formal dress and given the kind of recognition deserved by young
people who have accomplished so much. I am very proud of these
students.
The thought of not being able to provide the setting for these
memories to be made makes me very angry. This legislative session has
been brutal to those of us who are fighting desperately to save our
public schools. The cuts being proposed, especially in the house, are
totally unacceptable. The vast majority of your constituents do not
want this to happen and have been clear on the issue. No program, no
pet project, no special interest is deserving of funds in place of a
well educated, motivated and prepared workforce! These cuts can not be
allowed to become reality!
There are those who will say that the Texas Public School System is
broken. They will say that we waste money and the students I described
above do not exist. They are wrong! Over and over again we have
provided documented evidence of our success at teaching ALL the
children in our care. We provide the platform for young people to
pursue excellence without prejudice as to demographics or
socioeconomic status. We educate children, that is what we do. These
funding cuts will be devastating to that task.
I am angry! My children are under attack! The 82nd Legislature is
stealing the future of my students! I am proud that my Representative
voted against HB 1, but that is just the start. The students of House
District 7 and Senate District 1 NEED YOU! Revenue is the answer. Take
the governor’s corporate welfare accounts, spend the Economic
Stabilization Fund, every dime of it! The fund will replenish, but the
harm done to our students will be permanent.
The outstanding achievements that are happening in White Oak ISD are
not the exception. This story of success is playing out all over the
state. Do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.
Please share this with anyone who will listen.

Sincerely,

Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent
White Oak ISD

2011 TASA Legislative Conference Report

March 31, 2011

Report from Austin Legislative Conference

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 was a busy day at the State Capital. The day began with a conference attended by 1000 School Superintendents and School Board Members from across the state. We heard from Senator Shapiro and Representative Eissler on the progress from their prospective Education Committees. The message was very different and indicated that there is a deep chasm between the thinking of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Let’s start with the good news first. On the Senate side of the Capital, SB 6 has narrowed the funding gap to 4 Billion dollars over the next two years. You will remember we started the session at a 10 Billion dollar gap. Members of the Senate Education Committee have been willing to look at a wide range of options to bring funds back into the picture of the education of our students. There is even talk of a new funding system being developed that will eliminate the inequity of the Target Revenue System of funding by the year 2014! The news gets even better if you consider that there is no Economic Stabilization Funds (Rainy Day) included in this bill as written. Many of the Senators have already expressed their support for the use of this fund and that would narrow the gap even further bringing the state very close to matching current funding levels.

The picture in the House of Representatives is not as promising. HB 1 was voted out of committee onto the floor at 7.9 Billion dollars short of current law requirements. The members of the committee are not willing to use the “Rainy Day Fund” to close the gap and did not support the strategies being employed by the Senate to create SB 6. Despite a great deal of evidence that this gap can not be closed with cuts alone, the House is moving forward with the plan to create a Revenue Neutral “Balanced” Budget on the backs of the public school children of Texas. The cuts in education and many other service industries in the state will not benefit the economy. Using this level of cuts to balance the budget will cost tens of thousands of Texans their jobs and put an unmanageable strain on the state’s social services. Members of the House will tell you that this is the mandate that they were sent to Austin to accomplish and that the majority of the voters approve of their actions and intentions. I find it very difficult to believe that any group would intentionally promote the destruction of the Public School Education System and the State’s economy just to put a few dollars (very few) in their bank account.

What to do?
• Continue to write, email and call your Legislators and let them know you are still monitoring this issue. Include all the members that were included on the list provided earlier this spring.
• Express your appreciation to the Senators that have exhibited the courage to lead by example during this difficult planning process and encourage them to continue.
• Encourage the members of the House of Representatives to review the Senate plan and move forward to create a budget that does not severely damage the Local School District’s ability to provide services to their students.
• Continue to support the use of the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) to close the gap in the funding for Public School Education. The price of a barrel of oil remains well over the $70 per barrel threshold that puts money into the ESF. There is a legal cap on the total amount of money that can be held in the ESF. The money is needed. The fund was created specifically for this purpose and due to the price of oil, the fund will replenish itself. The local school district’s fund balance will not replenish itself if depleted.
• Finally, be vocal in your local community about the positive things that are happening at your school. Many of the people that favor cuts over revenue think that our public schools are a failure. They see money spent on Public Education as money thrown away with no benefits in return. It is our obligation to be ambassadors for the schools that we love.

The news is better but the process is far from over. Thank you for your involvement and your continued contribution to the commitment we all share in providing a quality education for our children. I firmly believe that the destruction of our Public School System will bring about the destruction of our State. Do not allow that to take place.

White Oak ISD’s response to our Legislators

March 23, 2011

White Oak ISD’s response to our Legislators

On March 4, 2011, petitions were delivered to Representative David Simpson’s office in Austin. The petitions included names and addresses of registered voters that were not in favor of the deep cuts being proposed in the Texas Public School System, and more specifically, White Oak ISD. At the same time, a large number of WOISD employees and residents wrote letters to several of our legislators expressing the same opinion on cutting funds for Texas Public Education. In response, we were given the following information:

• The Legislature is in this difficult position with the budget this year due to the downturn in the economy.
• Texas applies between 41 to 43 percent of the total state budget to Public School Education. Even with the cuts being proposed, this percentage remains the same.
• Districts do not need to cut cost by a Reduction In Force of Classroom Teachers. The cuts should be made by downsizing the District’s Administrative staff.

I would like to address each of these issues.

Blaming the current budget crisis on a downturn in the economy is not an accurate statement. The current issue we face can be linked back to a decision made by the Texas Legislature in the 80th Legislative Session. Tax compression was the goal of this session and the desire to make that happen outweighed any level of logic that could have/should have been applied to the process. The decision to compress the property by 33% was intended to fulfill the campaign promises made by those that obtained or sustained their place in office. The loss in revenue from the reduction was to be made up by the implementation of the “Margins Tax” on Texas Businesses. The budget shortfall
we face today started with the vote to compress the tax rate. In a letter sent to Governor Perry dated May 15, 2006 (http://www.window.state.tx.us/news/60515letter.html) Texas Comptroller Strayhorn stated that this rate compression would result in a shortfall of 23 Billion Dollars in five years. The year 2006 plus five years equal the year 2011 and the only thing she got wrong was the size of the shortfall! Comptroller Strayhorn did not predict a “downturn in the economy”. She did let state leaders know that the plan they put in place created a structural deficit that could have/should have been avoided at that time. If, by choice, the legislature voted to create this problem then, by choice, they should look for sources of revenue to solve the problem.
When we start to read about money issues in the form percentages, something is not right. Money is money and can be compared apples to apples across state lines. Representative Simpson uses percentages to indicate the level of commitment the state applies to Public Education. Appyling 41 to 43 percent of the budget to Public Education sounds like a firm commitment. The actual dollar comparisons do not paint the same picture. The latest data that I have been able to find shows Texas to rank between 43rd to 37th in per pupil spending out of 51 states and the District of Columbia. (http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2011/jan/31/wendy-davis/state-sen-wendy-davis-says-texas-ranks-44th-educat/) This information does not support the idea that Texas Public Schools are over funded and riddled with unnecessary personnel. Texas Public Schools have traditionally been funded well below the national average but at the same time, have led the way in school reform, assessment, accountability and improved scores for all socio-demographic subpopulations.
The third point to address is the idea that cuts can be made in administrative cost rather than through a Reduction In Force of educators and support staff. The highest paid employee of every public school district is the Superintendent of Schools. The latest TASBO salary information shows that Texas superintendent salaries average $120,000 per year. If every one of these positions were to be eliminated (1024 public school districts), the 5 Billion dollar cut expected from public schools would be reduced to a mere 4.9 Billion. If you want to use percentages, that would be a 2.4% reduction in the shortfall. Can certain positions be eliminated? Yes, but for the most part that would require the elimination of state and federal mandates that make up the bulk of the duties for these added positions. The cost savings will be very minimal.
As Superintendent of White Oak ISD, I recognize that we are in a financial crisis of greater magnitude than the state has ever seen before. I also understand that there is a need to tighten the belt to get through this difficult time. I do not believe that this can be accomplished with budget cuts alone. The Texas Comptroller told the Legislature in 2006 that this problem was coming and they chose to ignore the facts. The Texas Comptroller is telling the Legislature today that this financial crisis can not be solved with budget cuts alone and this time I hope they listen. For Public Schools, EQUITY IS THE ISSUE AND THE ONLY LONG TERM SOLUTION. As long as there are schools held under a system of Target Revenue that funds some students at less than $4,000 each while funding others at over $12,000 each, Equity can not be achieved. White Oak ISD is a Low Target Revenue School District ($4,954 per wada). We have “shared the pain” much longer than those districts being funded above the state average ($5,200 per wada). Those districts that have been funded at the higher value should absorb more of the cuts in state funding before WOISD sees a loss of state funds. I would ask our Legislative Leaders to listen to the experts and the Majority of your constituents and support the efforts to minimize the damage to our Texas Public School System. I would ask those of you that read this response to continue writing, emailing and calling your representatives. When they stop hearing from us, they assume we no longer care about the issue at hand. Please, do not let that happen.

Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent of Schools
White Oak ISD

What does the worst case scenario look like at White Oak ISD?

The letter that follows this introduction was written to express the overwhelming concern of the employees at White Oak ISD. This is a real life crisis in the Texas Public School community.

March 2, 2011

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
PO Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Governor Perry,

I am an employee of the White Oak Independent School District and a resident of Senate District 1 and House District 7. The news that is coming out of Austin concerning the funding of Texas Public Schools is very upsetting. In a meeting with members of the House and Senate this week, our Superintendent was told to plan for the worst case scenario in preparing for the 2011/2012 District Operating Budget. The worst case scenario for White Oak is a decrease in funds of 1.4 million dollars or 14.3% of this year’s operating budget. Cuts of this magnitude will be catastrophic to White Oak ISD and the city of White Oak, Texas.
The question is, what would it take to meet this requirement with a revenue neutral budget? In White Oak, it will look like this:
• Cut all employee salaries/pay by 10%. (which is actually illegal by state law)
• Cancel all athletic programs and eliminate the Athletic Director’s position
• Cancel the Marching Band and UIL Band/Choral Programs
• Cancel all UIL Academic Competition
• Cancel all Cheerleader, Flags and Twirler programs
• Cancel all travel and professional development
When all of these cuts have been implemented, White Oak ISD will still be short of the target by over $350,000. That will mean a reduction in force of 8 professional staff members or 14 support staff members in addition to the cuts listed above.
It is my hope that you are not in favor of the destruction of White Oak ISD and many other districts across the state. I am asking for your support in the form of your vote on the following issues:
• Vote Against the current funding plan for Public Education
• Vote Against funding cuts to low target revenue school districts (Hold Harmless Target Revenue below $5,000 per wada) until high target revenue school funds have been reduced to our level
• Vote For the use of the Economic Stabilization Fund to minimize funding cuts in Public Education
• Vote For a new equitable funding system for Public Schools that does not depend on Hold Harmless Target Revenue values
The community, faculty, staff, and most importantly, the students of White Oak Independent School District need your support. Thank you for your service to the citizens of your district and to the Great State of Texas.

Every employee of every school district in Texas can put together the same type of information and let our Legislator’s know the real cost of the proposed cuts!

What Is Right With Public school Education?

What is right with Public Education?

Tough economic times and a great deal of media coverage about proposed cuts in state budgets have given many people the opportunity to voice their opinion concerning Public Education. Many of us that have spent our adult lives working in public schools know the benefits and success stories associated with our chosen profession. Starting with Global Statistics, we are bombarded with media coverage of failing schools that do not prepare students for international competition. The fact is, the US Education System ranks 20th in the world, according to the United Nations Education Index, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_Index), found on Wikipedia. This worldwide study compares the education provided by over 170 nations as related to literacy and educational opportunities K through Post-Secondary. If you believe twentieth is not impressive, consider the following information:

• The combined population of the nineteen countries ranked higher that the US are not equal to the population of the USA.
• Only seven of the countries ranked higher that the US have a population greater than New York City.
• Only five of those countries have a population greater than the State of Texas.
• None of the countries ranked above the US are regularly mentioned as economic rivals the US.
• Japan ranks #34, China ranks #97 and India ranks #145.

Public Schools in Texas are continuously improving in test scores overall and in the sub-populations determined by ethnicity and/or socio-economic characteristics. One of the most often heard complaints is that the increase in expenditures has not resulted in an increase in results. Although there has been an increase in total dollars spent on Texas Education, there has not been a significant increased in the cost per student. Texas adds 85,000 new students to the rolls every year. That is the equivalent of an additional Austin ISD each year. That figure takes into consideration those that graduate and leave the system. Increased costs are directly related to increased reporting and monitoring of Federal/State Mandated Special Programs. Personnel have to be in place to complete and submit as many as 500 reports/audits required by Federal/State law. This is no small task. We serve more than 5 million students and the Texas Public School System is the sixth largest employer in The World.
Finally, at the local level, White Oak ISD employs 170 dedicated individuals that provide an outstanding educational environment for 1430 students. Our budget for 2010/2011 is 9.8 million dollars dispensed over 180 days of instruction. If you use 7.5 hours as the length of a day at school (which seldom ever happens), the cost of educating a child in White Oak ISD is $5.08 per hour, per child! That includes instruction, food service, transportation and all extra curricular activities. The opportunity to succeed exists in White Oak and it comes at a price of $5.08 per student, per hour. When Legislators talk about decreasing funds for Public Schools, they are talking about cuts that will harm the future of our students and harm the future of the State of Texas.
Those that are in opposition to Public Schools are being heard in Austin. I would encourage those of you that support the efforts of your local school district to be heard as well. There is a difference in saving funds and cutting funds. When you can do the same amount of work, create the same outcome and/or provide the same level of service with less money, you are saving money. When the decrease in funding negatively affects the outcome of your stated purpose, educating children, you are cutting funds. Cuts are painful and difficult to overcome. Contact your Representative in the House and your Senator. Let them know you support your school district and that funding to Public Education should be cut Last and Least!

Problems with UIL Realignment

University Interscholastic League (UIL)
Realignment 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010 was the release date for the realignment of all Texas Public School districts that compete in football and basketball. It is certainly one of the most anticipated events in the world of extracurricular activities in the state. There are always surprises, disappointments and relief among member schools, depending on how the “rubber band” is stretched to group new districts. In my 30 years of involvement with this process, the one thing I know to be true is that nothing is sacred or exempt from change.
This year the Conference AA districts experienced a whole sale change in the process of realignment. The football districts were split into large and small school district at the start of the season instead of at the beginning of the playoff process. This was approved by the Conference AA Superintendents in a referendum. The vote was pretty much along the lines of big schools were opposed to the measure and small schools were in favor on the change. By approving this measure all districts knew there would be extended travel and the elimination of 32 teams from the playoff system due to the fact that only two schools will be allowed into the playoffs from each district. This action was taken as an attempt to remedy the inequity of very small enrollment AA schools having to compete against schools with almost twice as many students in high school. This disparity exists in each of the five classifications but Conference AA was the only one to approve the measure to create two divisions.
So, what’s the problem? The superintendents approved the referendum and the UIL put it in place, end of story. The answer to that question is simple. The problem is not with football and the approved measure, the problem is with all the “unintended consequences” that will befall the AA districts in every other area of competition. With the release of the new football districts, the UIL also released the new basketball districts that do not include the same schools as football. Before April 15, 2010, the UIL will release the remaining spring athletic and academics districts. These new districts can and most likely will be different than basketball. Conference AA schools are looking at competition in anywhere from four to six different alignments, having four to six different rules committees, limited to no possibility of combining travel between male and female sports (players or fans) and no consistency in the ability to work as a group of schools through out the year to provide a quality experience for all students.
I am, once again, very disappointed in the lack of concern the UIL shows for the overall well being of sports and academic competition for Texas Public Schools. If the plan of large and small schools was so important for football at the AA level, why is not important for volleyball, basketball, debate, track, and all the sports in AAA-AAAAA? Conference A schools have a unique set of circumstances that require this type of multiple alignments. In football Conference A schools can have no football, six-man football and 11-man football which can not be combined. Many schools do not play volleyball of one of the other sports, which again presents a need to have different alignments. These circumstances do not exist in any large scale in AA schools. There is no need to place the extra burden of multiple districts on Conference AA. History clearly shows us that once the UIL makes a decision it is next to impossible to create a climate for dialog and/or change. It is my hope that after we endure the next two years of multiple rules meeting and tremendous increases in travel and split crowds, change will come.
I have always believed that you should not “gripe” about and issue without having a possible solution in mind. I have two. First, let the big and small football district alignments stand for all sports. This will create a more equitable size of school situation for all involved. In so doing, there will have to be an adjustment to the playoff system that allows three teams to enter the playoff in all sports. This too, has its own set of issues with byes created in the bracket, but all sports except football have been using this system for years. Second, leave football alignments as it is and create one district alignment for all other extracurricular UIL activities. Two committees and sets of meetings are better than six (according to my understanding of math). Either of these choices is infinitely more appealing than the reality of where we are today.

What is the cost of an education in White Oak?

The Value of Education

White Oak ISD

 

            Recently there have been several articles on the topic of the cost of Public Education. I wanted to take the time to write this entry in the White Oak Independent and give the taxpayers some information about the cost of an education at White Oak ISD. It is no secret that the faculty, staff and administration at White Oak feel that our students are receiving a quality education that will be beneficial in the work place or as they continue in their academic endeavors. White Oak ISD is the only TEA Recognized School District in Gregg County. Our high school students score above the state and national average on both the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. We have graduates the have excelled at colleges and universities of all sizes. One of our graduates just completed an internship with the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

            All of our extra-curricular programs are successful and give our students an opportunity to pursue interests outside the 7.5 hour school day. Fine Arts (Band, Choir and Drama), Athletics and UIL Academics give our students multiple choices to enhance the lessons taught in the classroom. Our students understand words like podcast, blogs, wikkis and can produce outstanding work at all grade levels.

            All of this information is important to consider when talking about the cost of the education provided by your public school system. Now, here are the numbers. White Oak has an annual operating budget of $10,478,499 and an enrollment of 1390 students.

 

$10,478,499  divided by 1390 students = $7,538.49 per student/per year

$7,538.49 divided by 180 Instructional Days = $41.88 per student/per day

$41.88 divided by a 7.5 hour school day = $5.58 per student/per hour

At $5.58 per hour, the taxpayers of White Oak ISD are getting a great deal of “bang for their buck”. Transportation, maintenance, food service, custodial service, administration and all the instructional costs are included in the $5.58 per hour price tag.

            There are those in the community that have expressed a concern about the amount of money spent on athletics at White Oak and other schools in the area. The athletic budget is $538,255, including all employee stipends and the salary of the Athletic Director. That amounts to 5.1% of the total budget. If you add Fine Arts and UIL Academics, the total is 8.7% of the total budget. To turn that figure around, 91.3% of the White Oak ISD Annual Budget is not related to extra-curricular activities. Once again, I would say that the return on our investment as taxpayers is very high. All of our teacher/coaches and sponsors teach, including our AD. White Oak ISD Athletic Director is the only teacher/coach or sponsor that receives a salary for extra-curricular duties. Everyone else is paid a stipend for their assignment. The best part is that these individuals are Master Teachers and they do an outstanding job in the classroom.

            I hope you have found this information informative and useful. The theme at the high school this year is “Be a Difference Maker”. That is the most rewarding thing about education. We have the opportunity to “Be a Difference Maker” in the lives of young people every day. White Oak ISD is an outstanding place to live and work. You can have the best facilities, the most money and the latest/greatest equipment, but if you don’t have great students and great teachers, you can not have a great school. The students, faculty and staff at White Oak ISD are the reason for our high level of success and outstanding reputation. Thank you for your support of all that we do and I hope that when you are asked about the cost of public education you can say, “We’re getting our monies worth in White Oak!”