House Bill 1555

Next Tuesday, April 14, The House Public Education Committee will consider HB 1555 for passage to the Full House. here is my letter of support that was sent the The Equity Center and Representitive Merritt’s office.

April 8, 2009

To: Chair and Members of the Texas House Public Education Committee

I Michael E. Gilbert, Superintendent of White Oak ISD, support HB 1555 and urge the Committee to vote it to the floor. HB 1555 is the only school finance bill that fully restores the student centered, formula driven system and it improves equity, decreases recapture by setting all three allotments (BA, GYA and EWL) at the 95%tile of wealth represented by the Austin ISD yield.
White Oak ISD is a high performing Class AA school district in East Texas. We are suffering in the current system from low target revenue, slow to no growth and little difference between actual enrollment and WADA. Without a dynamic fundamental change in this system (not a band-aide), we are looking at bankruptcy within the next five to six years. This is a no frills/no fat district at this time. Any further cuts will drastically affect the education of the students of White Oak. WE NEED YOUR HELP!!

Sincerely,

Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent of Schools
White Oak ISD

81st Legislative Concerns

81st Legislature

Pending Legislation Concerns

There are several proposed bills that I would like to commit on as a member of your district.

HB3646/SB2392

It is encouraging to know that the 81st Legislature is going to tackle the issue of School Finance in this session. Many schools, including White Oak ISD, are on the verge of severe financial hardships and other are already there. That being said, I am very concerned with the legislation proposed in Rep. Hochberg’s bill and Sen. Shapiro’s bill. Both seem to advocate business as usual to some degree with SB2392 being the biggest offender. Continuing any form of funding that relates back to 2005 levels is a continuation of the “Hold Harmless” practices that put us in the poor position we are in today. Creating complicated formulas and using ADA as opposed to WADA for the purpose of determining values is not the answer. Introducing legislation with blank lines were monetary values should be is not acceptable for presenting a plan to better fund our public schools. WOISD is opposed to HB3646/SB2392.

HB1555/SB982 provide a much better solution to the problems faced by all schools and develop a plan that will successfully provide a quality education to all students. WOISD supports HB1555/SB982.

HB 151/SB158

This proposed legislation would require school district to inform parents that there is not a nurse assigned to the campus attended by their student. It is not required by law for schools to have one nurse per campus and in the case of White Oak ISD it would be financially irresponsible. All four of our campuses are walking distance from each other and the two nurses we employ are readily available for all of our students. It does not make since to require a district to notify parents of a situation that is not out of compliance with state law. WOISD is opposed to HB151/SB158

HB4191/SB503

I find no up side to this proposed legislation. Publishing the names of potential superintendent candidates will only result in a weaker pool of applicants which will result in less than the best possible leadership for the district. Recently there were published commits that stated the public’s right to know was more important than any worries about candidates not applying for an open position. This could not be further from the truth. The single most important goal of any school board looking for a new leader should be to find the very best person for the job. This legislation will prevent that from being possible. Quality leaders will not risk damage to the relationship they have with current board members just to apply for another position. It is not in the best interest of the students, staff, faculty or community as a whole to put this legislation into practice. WOISD is opposed to HB4191/SB503.

SB 982 and HB1555

The folloing is from Jor Smith’s Texasisd.com website. It is a clearly written explaination of the Senate and House versions of The Equity Centers attempt to equalize school funding.

The Equity Center has published a “draft 5- year model by school district” for SB 982 and HB 1555.  SB 982 by Senator Van de Putte and House Bill HB 1555 filed by Representative Patrick are identical.

 Model: SB 982 & HB 1555 Cost Analysis Summary 

 

These bills address the fact that the current system does not treat all students and taxpayers in a similar manner when providing or funding educational opportunities. We desperately need this basic level of fairness. This action is the necessary first step to increasing student performance and improving college and workforce readiness of our students.

In an earlier conversation with Representative Patrick she stated that HB 1555:

·         Restores local control through meaningful discretion

·         Meets all three criteria of TEA Budget Rider 89 – increase equity, reduce recapture and return to a cost based formula

·         Increases funding per weighted student (WADA)

·         Cuts calculated recapture in half

·         Provides method for tax reduction.

 

The model is based on the following assumptions as stated in The Equity Center’s introduction:

 

 The purposes of SB 982 and HB 1555 are to significantly increase equity; reduce recapture and return to a cost-based formula funding system for public education

 

·         In order to achieve these purposes, SB 982 and HB 1555 establish a schedule to set the Basic Allotment (BA), Guaranteed Level (GL), and Equalized Wealth Level (EWL) at the Austin ISD wealth level (90% and 95% of AISD in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, respectively and 100% of Austin ISD in fiscal year 2012 and thereafter).

·          Districts with property tax effort at or exceeding $1.00 per $100 of valuation will receive a minimum funding increase of $75 per WADA in fiscal year 2010 and an additional increase of $100 per WADA in fiscal year 2011.

·          Beginning in fiscal year 2011, and each year thereafter, the state and local financial commitment is limited to a maximum increase of $200 per WADA. These changes will see Texas implement the most equitable school finance system in its history, culminating with 95 percent of the students in Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) within an equalized public school funding system in fiscal year 2012.

·         The remaining 5 percent of the WADA will be funded at higher levels.

 

As a result of these changes, the number of districts with calculated recapture (Robin Hood) will decrease from 189 districts with 21 percent of the WADA today to fewer than 120 districts with about 5 percent of the WADA in fiscal year 2012. In addition, the amount of calculated recapture (Robin Hood) will decrease from about $1.5 billion today to about $800 million in fiscal year 2012.

 

To help prevent a re-occurrence of a state-wide property tax, these bills include a property tax reduction mechanism beginning in fiscal year 2011, and each year thereafter, using the following method: districts that would receive a funding increase in excess of the $200 per WADA funding cap will still be limited at that amount; however, the portion of a school district’s funding increase that exceeds $200 per WADA will be used to reduce property taxes in that district instead. As a result of this provision, 725 districts will have their property taxes reduced an average of 3.9 pennies in fiscal year 2011.

 

The model shows an analysis of the funds invested in public education by SB 982 and HB 1555 from fiscal years 2010-2014. The models used to develop these estimates were based on Legislative Budget Board assumptions. Amounts shown relate only to the provisions of SB 982 and HB 1555 and therefore only to Maintenance and Operations (M&O) funding. Dollar amounts reflect the total state and local school district contributions to public education.

 

Letter to Senator Eltife

January 30, 2009

 

 

The Honorable Kevin Eltife

P.O. Box 12068

Capital Station

Austin, Texas 78711

 

Senator Eltife,

 

            The meeting of the 81st Legislature is of great interest to all Public School Superintendents in Texas. We are in need of your support and rely on the fact that you have been an advocate for Public School Children through out your career. White Oak ISD is an outstanding place to live, work and educate young people. All stakeholders in White Oak are supportive of the effort to provide a quality education at White Oak Schools.

            That being said, we have serious financial issues that are beyond the scope of our collective ability to solve. White Oak ISD approved a Tax Rate Election last fall that will add approximately $680,000 in revenue to the district. With this extra revenue the district will still have a $200,000 deficit budget for the 2008/2009 school year. We are not wasting money. I can provide volumes of data that compare our spending and staffing ratios with districts in this area and around the state that support our belief that we are being good stewards of the taxpayers money. The Tax Rate Election represents the final act that we can perform to fund WOISD at the local level.

            I have two requests of you and the other members of the Senate. First, please consider carefully the proposal of the Equity Center to return to a formula based funding system for the Public School Systems in Texas. The current Hold-Harmless system is crippling to White Oak ISD and will certainly be fatal if not changed in the near future. Second, I am asking you to support a formula based method for the distribution of the funds coming into the state by way of the Federal Stimulus Package. At our Mid-Winter Conference, we were told that there is a consideration to put the money out through Competitive Grants. That method will not give the students of White Oak ISD much hope of receiving any funds.

            I would like to spend some time with you in person to discuss these issues and provide you with the data that has been collected to support these points. Please let me know the best method of making an appointment and I will be glad to come to Austin. Thank you for your time and any consideration you may give to these requests.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Michael E. Gilbert

Superintendent of Schools

White Oak ISD

 

Letter to the Editor at White Oak Independent

February 27, 2009

 

 

 

White Oak ISD

and

The National Center for Educational Excellence

 

 

            There have been two articles in the Longview News-Journal over the past two weeks that reference a study and awards given to local schools for educational excellence. The National Center for Educational Excellence recognized nineteen (19) area Elementary and Junior Highs for their efforts on TAKS Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies. Many of you noticed that there was not a White Oak ISD campus mentioned in the report.

            The East Texas schools listed and recognized by the NCEE were selected in one of two categories. First, if the campus showed marked improvement over last years scores, they were placed on the list. This improvement could have come in one or more of the assessed areas. Second, a campus could be placed on the list based on sustained high achievement in one or more of the assessed areas. The campuses at White Oak ISD have regularly scored at very high levels on the TAKS Test and therefore are not eligible for the first measure to make the list. In looking at the list of schools that did receive recognition, it is my belief that the majority of the awarded schools were eligible through the first criteria.

            The purpose of this letter is to make you aware of the outstanding efforts of our students at White Oak ISD. White Oak ISD is the only Texas Education Agency Recognized School District in Gregg and Smith County combined. There are 26 different grade level assessments (test) given to students in the public schools. Ninety (90) percent of your children passed 23 out of 26 of those test. WOISD scored in the 80% range on two tests and the 70% range on one. This is an outstanding effort. The second measure of success on TAKS is to see how many students answered 90% of the questions correctly on each test. This is called “Commended Performance”. The percentage of WOISD students that achieved Commended Performance was greater than the state average on 24 of 26 tests. The greatest thing about all of these numbers is that they are District Wide numbers. We did not pick out a certain high performing grade level and try to pass them off as the standard for all students. This is the standard for all students.

            I would like to conclude by giving you some information about the task that our teaching staff is charged with on a daily basis. Bill Daggett is the Founder of a national education “think tank” that evaluates education in many different ways. Dr. Daggett spoke in Longview several months ago and his data revealed some interesting facts about the process of educating Texas public school students. Texas teachers are required to cover a set of educational standards called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Students are then tested to see if they have learned the TEKS by taking the Texas Assessment of Knowledge ad Skills (TAKS). Dr. Daggett reports that the sheer volume of required standards is greater than anywhere else IN THE WORLD! That is correct; your children are being exposed to more required pieces of information than any of the so called “New Leaders in Education” from around the world. You can do your own research by looking at the home page of The International Center for Leadership in Education. White Oak ISD is committed to the education of all the children in the district. I want each of you to know that your children are being taught by an outstanding group of educators. I also want you to know that great teachers require the effort of great students. The student population at White Oak is the true treasure of this district. The motto at WOISD is much more than just words; it is what we believe;

A Heritage of Pride, Tradition, and Educational Excellence!

 

 

 

Sincerely,

Michael E. Gilbert

Superintendent of Schools

White Oak ISD