Saturday, March 13, 2010

Texas School Closures Looming

You hear dire news across the country about how school districts are running out of money. So the answer is to lay off teachers and close schools. Kansas City (Missouri) School District made the news last week when the school board announced that it would close half of its schools. The back story to that is long and sad but suffice it to say that the district has operated half full schools for years and was running out of money.

You hear about other closures in California, which has become a poster child for public school budget shortfalls.

But according to our governor, Rick Perry, Texas is weathering the recession well and is in fine shape.

He sees a rosy future for Texas.

However, in La Marque ISD in Galveston County, you might get a different opinion.

For whatever reason, La Marque ISD has been losing students. The money the district receives from the state has slowly whittled down to $5051 per student which is the lowest rate in the area.

So the LMISD board is considering laying off 47 employees and has approved a plan to offer $500 to every employee who decides to leave the district.

To do nothing, they say, would mean that they would be operating under a deficit budget, which is forbidden by Texas law.

It is also reported here that LMISD may have to resort to closing a school in the district.

Another school closure in Longview is reported here. In that case it was in reaction to the closure of a US Steel plant and loss of 600 jobs.

But there is irony in all of this.

How ironic it is that Texas, holder of the nation’s largest public endowment for public schools, the Texas Permanent School Fund, which reported yesterday that its investments earned a record 25% return in 2009, this state has districts in financial trouble. Districts closing schools. Districts considering layoffs and increasing their student:teacher ratios.

All of this when, statewide, fully one third of all of its high school students will drop out at some point in their secondary educational careers.

All of this when Texas students rank 4th from the bottom in SAT Verbal scores and 2nd from the bottom in SAT Math scores.

All of this when the State Board of Education, which oversees the Permanent School Fund, voted to invest $40 million in each of two real estate funds – investing in real estate for the first time in the history of the fund.

So on the one hand, the Texas Permanent School Fund grew by over $4 billion last year, but this year schools in Texas are closing and teachers are being laid off because they are running budget deficits in the millions.

Is it just me or does anyone else see that there is something seriously, seriously wrong here?


Tony said...

Just the beginning of the end for Good Hair if the majority of voters are wise...

Anonymous said...

Instead of building new schools, shouldn't FBISD make sure the existing ones are at capacity?

Even if it means longer bus rides and commutes. Let's see...we build a new high school in Sienna Plantation, yet Marshall and Willowridge are significantly below capacity. The same goes for Middle Schools and Elementary Schools.

Maybe, just maybe, it's the fact that some don't want their children going to school with "those people."

Hal said...

I don't know, Anon. I just reread the piece and didn't see Fort Bend ISD named at all in it. They may also be having financial trouble as well, but that district wasn't a part of the piece. But I do know that schools that don't make AYP for 3 years must allow students to select another school to go to. On the other hand, district attendance zones are enforced. If you are zoned in a school's attendance zone, you attend that school. You can't not.

In short anon, it looks like if there is an attendance problem at some schools it is not because people don't want their children to go to school with "those people", it's because of AYP.

Just thinking out loud here.

Anonymous said...

The fund dropped 40% like everybody else in 2008. The earnings from the fund pay out almost 600 million a year for textbooks for all children across the state.

The fund has never paid for school districts buildings. That is a responsibility of the local taxpayers.