The Supt Dish
During the spring, the Board of Trustees and I, along with many of you, wrote letters, sent emails and made phone calls to our elected officials in Austin in an effort for legislative action to extend ASATR funding for Goliad ISD. Due to legislative action in 2011, ASATR funds are to expire on September 1, 2017.
Last year the Texas Supreme Court ruled our school finance system “satisfies minimal constitutional requirements” however is “byzantine and undeniably imperfect with immense room for improvement.” The day I was present to testify for the House ASATR bill, HB 811, State Representative Dan Huberty, who chairs the House Public Education Committee, presented a new school finance bill, HB 21. This bill would have provided Hardship Grants for ASATR districts for a two-year period and injected $1.6 billion in additional funding to public schools. Although I did not testify on HB 21, I did let Representative Geanie Morrison’s Chief of Staff, Dr. MacGregor Stephenson, know that we are in favor of this bill and applaud Chairman Huberty and members of the House Public Education Committee for developing a new school finance system while bringing some relief to ASATR districts.
But the Senate changed HB 21 to reduce the new money the House had injected from $1.6 billion to $530 million and inserted Educator Savings Accounts, or vouchers, for parents of special education or 504 students. This was not agreeable and thus, the school finance bill did not make it to Governor Abbott.
With the close of the 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas House and Senate failed to fund Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) or agree on a new school finance system. Goliad ISD along with approximately 150 other school districts across Texas will lose close to $250 million in state funding. For Goliad ISD, this means the loss of approximately $4 million, or 28% of the total Goliad budget, placing Goliad per student funding lower than 2006 levels. This equates to approximately $2,800 LESS funding per student at Goliad ISD in 2017-18!
Regardless of where you stand on school choice (vouchers, education savings accounts), I am disappointed our elected officials could not come to a consensus to approve a new school finance system with Hardship Grants for ASATR districts or pass a bill to extend ASATR for those school districts in need. Education Savings Accounts seemed to be the issue with the House voting 103-44 in April that no public funds be used for vouchers or education savings accounts while the Senate voted 21-10 to insert Education Savings Accounts in HB 21.
As we continue to prepare the 2017-18 budget with less funding and no resolution to a new school funding system, lets hope and pray that Governor Abbott will call for a Special Session. Our elected officials need to pass legislation that will provide additional funding of our public schools, relief to ASATR districts, and not hold our schools hostage over school choice. As Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman stated in the school finance lawsuit ruling, “shortfalls in both resources and performance persist in innumerable respects, and a perilously large number of students are in danger of falling further behind.” Putting our students in danger of falling behind, places our state in danger of falling behind in a global economy.