This post has been designed to answer questions that the community may have regarding school related issues. If you have a question about school operations; policy, budget, future plans or anything similar that you would like to see answered in a public forum, you may mail, email or call me with your question. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please make that request.
Although there is no such thing as a bad question, certain questions may not be addressed, specifically questions that deal with individual students or individual personnel. It would be unethical to discuss these topics in a public forum. These are also considered to be confidential topics according to state law.
Gossip and hearsay are damaging to our school. It is my hope that this “blog” will address some of the rumors that are typical in every community and that it will set the facts straight. We don’t claim to be perfect but we do make every effort to be open and honest regarding our school business. My hope is that this “blog” can prevent us from getting sidetracked so we can stay focused on our mission of educating our students.
My contact information is: Tom Bean ISD
P.O Box 128
Tom Bean, Tx 75489
HB 3Posted by Kelly Lusk on 9/16/2019
September 16, 2019 – Relating to HB 3.
The passage of HB 3 was a significant accomplishment in relation to funding Texas public schools and a breath of fresh air for educators in Texas. Along with promised property tax limitations for the local taxpayer, the bill provides for long-overdue additional state income for teachers, and to a lesser extent, increases for other personnel who are not administrators. Funding in areas of instruction and school safety that have not been addressed previously were included and issues with the Teacher Retirement System were addressed as well.
In the past ten to fifteen years, the state continually shifted more of the financial burden for schools to local boards of trustees and local property taxpayers. HB 3 goes back the other direction, putting more financial responsibility on the state which creates a better balance. That is a good thing for all of us.
For many years, Tom Bean has been considered “property poor” in the state’s eyes. This means that the state sends the district dollars each year since the local tax base cannot raise enough money to fund the school. All of this is determined by a very complicated formula based upon average daily student attendance and property values. Understand that as your property taxes rise, the state cuts their share of the funding for the district. You may be paying more in taxes but our district does not necessarily receive more money for operations.
The TBISD Board of Trustees and administration have been extremely conservative and frugal with the taxpayer’s money. In fact, since 2008, the tax rate in this district has ranked as the second lowest in Grayson County. With limited funds, the Board has provided for everyday operational needs, has improved facilities, and has addressed unanticipated circumstances. The TBISD board has recently worked very carefully to increase teacher compensation to become more competitive with surrounding districts, while keeping the long term financial health of the district in focus. That careful stewardship continued as the board considered this year’s budget.
Some of our state leaders promised an “average compensation” increase of at least $4,000 for teachers. This misled many people when they did not focus on the word, “average” or the word, “compensation”. All they heard was teachers would receive a $4,000 raise. When you factor in all the legislative language, that $4,000 “average compensation” takes on a different reality. The fact was that many districts did not receive enough new funding to increase teacher salaries this amount. Tom Bean teacher salary increases ranged from $2,200 to $6,136, which was a significant increase when compared to other districts in the area and state. Teachers in many districts received much smaller raises and there were some who received none.
While the state did assume a greater share of the costs of public schools, a concern arises. HB 3 provides no new source of money to continue this plan beyond two years. In other words, these new funds could be eliminated during the next legislative session.
The long-term sustainability for funding of HB 3, without an additional constant source of revenue, unfortunately, could be impacted by fluctuations in the economy and other factors. A lot could happen in two or four years. Lack of a sustainable source of revenue from the state, combined with property tax caps could force school districts into a difficult position trying to fund these new requirements which include the increased “compensation.”
Tom Bean ISD remains committed to every child and to every taxpayer who contributes to the education of those children. The Board of Trustees is steadfast in making sure every TBISD employee receives the maximum amount of “compensation” possible while being mindful of the future sustainability of those decisions.
While this session was a great improvement in the atmosphere toward teachers and public education in general, there is still a lot of work to be done by our state leaders. HB3 is not an overall “reform” as some have described. It does not “fix” the finance system. It is not as comprehensive as some would have us believe. Texas still ranks 46th in the nation in per child funding. It is a start, but only a start in educating the future workforce of 5.5 million children while reducing some of the burden on property taxpayers.
We congratulate our locally elected representatives who listen to their constituents and take care of the people and the children they are elected to represent. We are grateful and we thank them for keeping their eyes on the future of our great state and our democracy by providing for and supporting Texas public schools.
A-F RatingsPosted by Kelly Lusk on 8/23/2019
August 23, 2019 – Relating to A-F Ratings release by TEA.
We are super excited to begin the 2019-20 school year on such a positive note. The District is coming off of one of the most successful years in school history, and we have welcomed over 600 students for whom we care and respect.
The state released the A-F ratings last week and our district rating improved as much as any in the state of Texas. Our elementary school achieved the only "A" rating in Grayson County. We are extremely proud of our students, faculty, and staff members that worked so hard to make this recognition a reality, but my thoughts relating to the negative impact that rolling 12,000 indicators into one letter grade to label an entire community have not changed.
We know that this “B” rating is primarily based on the STAAR test. We will continue to raise the bar each year, but we know that our school is much more than a letter grade. Our kids excel in many facets that our community acknowledges as well. We have students that excel in UIL academics, athletics, band, FFA, Robotics, cheer, drill team, National Honor Society, and so much more. We have kids that graduate and are equipped with workforce skills and experience, as well as graduates that are college and military ready. We teach our kids to be problem solvers. We teach our kids to communicate. We teach our kids to be compassionate. We teach our kids to give back and to serve. We teach our kids to lead. We teach our kids what it means to have backbone.
We share these state ratings but we want to remind you that these ratings are only a small part of what happens at your local public school. We believe that the statistical system that has been put in place is very misleading. We invite you to go to the TEA website, as we did last year, and peruse the 86 page manual that describes how a school receives an “A-F” rating. A data analyst sitting in an office at TEA cannot recognize nor measure the things that make our school special. Our community recognizes and knows Tom Bean does the things that are important in order to be successful. We appreciate the confidence and support of those in the community that stand with us. We are honored to work with the children of Tom Bean who are working towards greatness each day.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Charter SchoolsPosted by Kelly Lusk on 3/4/2019
March 4, 2019 - Privately owned charter schools are currently on the rise, seeking approval to operate in Grayson County as well as other rural counties throughout Texas, billing themselves as School Choice options. Tom Bean ISD is highly opposed to the approval of these requests as we think these charter campuses would negatively affect the education and future of students in Grayson County. If you agree with our opinion, I would ask you to contact our state representative, Reggie Smith, and our state senator, Pat Fallon. Please consider the following facts about charter schools as they seek to move into our communities:
- Please know that ALL 13 SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN GRAYSON COUNTY ALREADY OFFER FAMILIES SCHOOL CHOICE, allowing them to transfer their children to other school districts in Grayson County if they so desire, from districts ranging in size from A to 6A, while continuing to provide each child a diverse slate of academic and extracurricular programs, impacting the success of thousands of students every year.
- For a multitude of reasons, 89 students and/or their parents who reside in the Tom Bean ISD have chosen to enroll in various districts in the area. Likewise, 98 students and/or their parents who reside in various districts in the area have chosen to enroll in the Tom Bean district. There are also several private school options in the area as well as Home-school. School Choice already exists.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS VS. CHARTER SCHOOLS:
- Public schools are REQUIRED by the State of Texas to provide a space, a teacher and the necessary supplies TO EDUCATE ALL CHILDREN, regardless of disabilities, economic disadvantages, race, creed, religion or other circumstances.
- Charter Schools are NOT REQUIRED to educate EVERY CHILD, regardless of disabilities, economic disadvantages, race, creed, religion or other circumstances.
- Privately-operated charter schools in Texas are already creating numerous problems in the communities where they currently operate, separating and segregating children from their community school and creating a divisive Us versus Them mentality.
FINANCIAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS and CHARTERS:
- TAXPAYER DOLLARS that go to PUBLIC SCHOOLS are governed by TAXPAYER-ELECTED BOARDS that must adhere to strictly mandated accountability.
- For example, 0.3% of public school districts in the state received an “F” on the Financial Integrity Rating System (FIRST) used by the state to grade schools use of financial resources while 4.8% of charter schools received an “F” rating on FIRST. Tom Bean received an “A” rating on this same report, along with 82.7% of the public ISD’s in the state, while only 71.5% of charters received an “A.”
- TAXPAYER DOLLARS that go to CHARTER SCHOOLS are governed by PRIVATELY APPOINTED BOARDS with limited accountability whose members are NOT elected by or accountable to the taxpayers who provide their funding.
- Without oversight/accountability from taxpayer-elected school boards, taxpayer money seldom benefits students. Many of these charters pay their CEO’s salaries that are totally out of line with the number of students which they serve. Consider the following comparison of student population and salary examples for Superintendents of Public Schools in Texas --- to student population and salaries of Superintendents of Charter Schools in Texas:
Dallas ISD: 156,832 students; Annual Salary: $335,000 ($2.13 per student)
Houston ISD: 214,175 students; Annual Salary: $345,000 ($1.61 per student)
Grayson County ISD's: 23,277 students, Avg. Annual Salary: $130,436 ($121 per student)
South Plains Academy Charter: 200 students; Annual Salary: $300,000 ($1,500 per student)
Accelerated Intermediate Academy: 269 students; Annual Salary: $268,209 ($997 per student)
**Not all charter CEO salaries are this outlandish but this is used to illustrate that there is very limited financial accountability in the charter industry. To view and compare more salaries and student populations, please visit this link: https://rptsvr1.tea.texas.gov/cgi/sas/broker**
- As a general rule, CEO’s in the charter industry are paid more than their public school counterparts, while teachers in the charter industry are paid less than their public school counterparts.
- As a general rule, administrative costs in the charter industry are higher per student than in the public schools. More money towards administration means less money for instruction.
- The State allows Charter Schools to issue bonds and build facilities in school districts WITHOUT TAXPAYER APPROVAL, which suggests taxation without representation.
- Taxpayer money that traditionally has gone to Texas Public Schools to provide EVERY CHILD with the best education available is now shared with Charter Schools, resulting in the questionable use of taxpayer dollars as well as shrinking student services & programs that prepare ALL children for success at college and the workplace.
OTHER FINANCIAL FACTS TO CONSIDER:
- Charter schools receive $2.8 billion in taxpayer funding per year, taking valuable tax money from public schools that serve ALL children.
- Charter schools currently have non-voter approved debt totaling over $3.2 billion.
- Charter schools have increased the cost to local taxpayers by an estimated $2.5 billion per year because of duplication of services.
- Charter Schools do NOT “outperform” community-based school districts.
- Charter Schools, on average, provide less programs and fewer services for students.
- Research shows that charter schools have NO IMPACT on test scores and a NEGATIVE IMPACT on employment earnings of charter school graduates.
- Charter schools DECREASE test score results, 4-year college enrollment and earnings.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT PUBLIC EDUCATION?
- Charters do not raise the educational opportunities for all students – it solely transfers some of the responsibilities from publically elected board members who must live in the ISD, to privately appointed boards which are not required to, and generally do not, live in the community in which the school is located.
- The fact is the Charter movement is a movement to privatize education, which will result in a loss of your voice in the education of your child. The local school board elected by your community to represent your concerns will be a thing of the past
- 6 charter corporations control 50% of the charter students in the state of Texas, (147,000 students).
- Public Education is about “Learning,” Corporate charter schools are about “-earning."
- School districts lose state funding for each student who enrolls in a charter school, but due to the small number from each grade level or campus, expenses related to facilities, equipment, instructional supplies, teachers, nurses, counselors and support staff cannot be reduced.When charter schools FAIL TO MEET THE NEEDS of a student or the student becomes a DISCIPLINE PROBLEM, the traditional public school district in which the student resides MUST enroll the student when charter schools expel them.
- When a charter school becomes the school of ‘choice’, they are never held acceptable as the default school of record.
- Studies across the state have determined that only 40 percent of students who enroll in charter schools actually finish there, which means the majority transfer back into public schools to get what they need to successfully complete their K-12 education.
- Charter schools are NOT REQUIRED TO SERVE SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS if they do not have the resources to do so. Public schools must serve ALL students, including special needs students, or contract for the appropriate services.
- Open Enrollment Charter Schools MAY NOT BE OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS.
- For a multitude of reasons, 89 students and/or their parents who reside in the Tom Bean ISD have chosen to enroll in various districts in the area. Likewise, 98 students and/or their parents who reside in various districts in the area have chosen to enroll in the Tom Bean district. There are also several private school options in the area as well as Home-school. School Choice already exists.
- The slogan, we need to “expand charter schools to serve students in failing schools” is a slick, corporate marketing campaign. The fact is 73.3% of charter students reside in a public school district that is rated “A” or “B” in the school accountability system. Only 4.4% of charter students reside in a public school district with a rating of “D” or “F.” Public school districts are not failing but are instead being portrayed as failing to increase the dollars that flow to privately owned corporations.
- Nationally, in 2017-2018, charter schools exceeded 3.2 million students in 44 states on 7,000 campuses, with Texas ranked as the fastest growing state that allows taxpayer money to flow into charter schools without accountability and taxpayer elected representation.
- Since private charters were first allowed in the state of Texas, 47% (154 of 329) have been revoked, returned, rescinded, consolidated or failed. This success rate is abysmal.
INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO TEXAS COLLEGE PREPARATORY ACADEMIES (TCPA),
- Texas College Preparatory Academies (TCPA), which has applied for a campus in the Sherman area, is currently performing well below statewide averages in academic performance. In fact, 2 of the 7 “Classical Academies” in North Texas received a 2018 Accountability Rating of Improvement Required.
- Further data from TEA’s 2017-18 TAPR School District Profile regarding TCPA indicates some very alarming information:
- The 4-year longitudinal graduation rate for the class of 2016 was a dismal 62.6% which is well below the statewide average of 89.1%
- The 4-year longitudinal graduation rate for the class of 2017 was still 8% below the state average, while Tom Bean ISD had a graduation rate 1.5% higher than the state average.
- The 5-year rate for TCPA was 37% below the state average while Tom Bean’s was 6% above.
- Tom Bean ISD has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, teacher pay scale in Grayson County, yet our teacher turnover rate was 10% lower than TCPA’s 31% turnover rate.
- The TCPA average years of teacher experience is only 3.8 compared to the statewide average of 10.9
- Although Tom Bean ISD has a slightly higher percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students than TCPA, 46% to 43%, Tom Bean has a higher percentage of students scoring above the state average on STAAR (Approaches) in multiple areas (2018):
TCPA Tom Bean
All students, all subjects -2% Even
All students, Reading +6% -2%
All students, Mathematics -7% +1%
All students, Writing +1% +1%
All students, Science -8% +4%
All students, Social Studies -12% +5%
- The fact that our scores are comparable to, if not higher than, TCPA, yet their district has a higher rating than Tom Bean, sheds light on some of the problems with the “A-F” Accountability Rating System rolled out be TEA last year. (See my previous blog dated August 21, 2018).
- Our concerns are that the students within our district that TCPA fails academically or are expelled for disciplinary actions may return to our district and we will accept them. Upon enrollment, our teachers would face the huge burden of remediating instructional gaps possessed by these students.
- In summary, the results of the TCPA are no better and, in fact, are worse than Tom Bean ISD and I would suspect are worse than every school in Grayson County. Please refer to the TEA webpage, TAPR report, District # 221801 for more information.
- We don’t deny that our district faces challenges but bringing in a charter school to our county will only stretch limited resources even thinner.
INFORMATION EXTRACTED FROM: Overview of State Approved, Privately–Operated Charter Schools in Texas and the Direct Impact on Community-Based School Districts - February 28, 2019
A-F RatingsPosted by Jennifer Williams on 8/15/2018
The current school “A-F ratings” that were released on Wednesday by the Texas Education Agency assigned the Tom Bean ISD an “F.” We feel that our rating was not as high as it perhaps should have been due to a bookkeeping/reporting error regarding our Dual Credit students at the High School. Although we have not confirmed the mathematics in computing what would have been the appropriate score, we feel that it should have been a “C.” This is based on discussions we have had with the Region 10 Service Center. I repeat that we have definitely found a bookkeeping error that clearly had an effect on our rating but the computation of the rating is a good faith estimate at this point.
Individual campuses are not rated this year but will receive ratings next year.
We acknowledge that we have work to do in relation to our instruction across the district, we always will, but planned instructional changes have been in the works for months, in part based on our test results released in May and June. But a rating system timed to be released on the first day of school for many public schools is a little late to offer us much assistance this school year. Reviewing pages and pages of data and thousands of data points that have been reduced to one letter grade is not something that lends itself to be completed quickly. We would rather our teachers spend their time looking at individual student and classroom level assessments to find the holes in our curriculum.
The release of school “ratings” in August 2017 by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), rated Tom Bean ISD “Met Standard” (the highest possible rating). We also received some distinctions, which is recognition for doing well in some areas. We have reported these ratings to our teachers and publicly reported these to our community at our December 2017 school board meeting. These ratings, along with ratings from the previous three years, have also been posted on our website. We are proud of the successes that we have had and the improvements we have made but, we have not made a big deal of these ratings because we feel that these do not accurately represent all of the educational philosophies or priorities of Tom Bean ISD and that “standardized” state accountability does not meet our parents and community expectations.
Testing has a purpose and a place and we will continue to support it, but not at the expense of the true education that will have a greater impact upon students’ hopes and futures. We have chosen to take a more holistic approach believing that cognitive skills matter, but social and emotional skills, such as perseverance, self-control and resilience are just as important. All of these skills need to be fostered for our students to prosper so we strive to provide children a balanced set of skills for achieving positive life outcomes.
While the “intent” of the “A-F” system is reportedly so that everyone can easily understand what is a “good” or “bad” school, we believe otherwise. A few comments on the “A-F” system:
- Regardless of if our district had received an “A,” TEA’s stamp of approval, the “C” which we feel like we deserved, or the “F” we received, we believe this system is completely off track and will be a detriment to many schools and communities across Texas. There are many in the education community across the state who believe that this system is being created to discredit public schools in a political effort to push private school “vouchers” and privatized charter schools at the next legislative session.
- First, this “A-F system” is strongly dependent upon state mandated standardized test scores. ANY system that is so strongly based on testing results does not represent the differences in communities in regards to demographics, socioeconomic conditions, local needs and expectations or philosophies of individual districts. For example, this same system is used to rate schools in Texarkana, Beaumont, Brownsville, El Paso, Dalhart and Tom Bean. These communities are hundreds of miles apart in different regions of the state and each have different needs. It is our belief that it is statistically impossible to design a mathematical system that can rate schools fairly across such a vast state.
- Second, this system has and is being used in other states with no proof that this system helps districts, schools, students or parents. In fact, some states have now gone away from this system as they have seen the detrimental effects upon students, schools, communities and no positive results.
- Third, this new rating system does not accurately represent what goes on at a local school or district where philosophies, actions and considerations can be taken into account to benefit local students and community needs.
Some may say that we are against accountability; we are not. We support some type of state accountability rating system, a portion of which is based on standardized testing.
We believe accountability must be in place for ALL public schools and the funds that are shared with us from the taxpayer. Our district is held accountable locally by students, parents and our community every day in regards to academic results, taxes and meeting the needs of the local community as well as by state standards of academic and financial accountability.
It is a fact that LOCAL taxes now fund well over 50% of public education in the state of Texas as the legislature has allowed the state’s share of this cost to drop to 38% (the other 8% is federal money). So, it could be argued that local accountability and opinions SHOULD carry greater weight since they have become the primary funding source for public education.
We strive to have every student “college ready,” but we realize that everyone is unique and this cookie cutter rating system does not meet everyone’s needs, desires and goals at this point in their lives. Thus, we strive to offer additional opportunities for our students to improve their employment prospects by fostering social and emotional skills, also known as non-cognitive skills, soft skills or character skills, such as communication skills, perseverance, responsibility and motivation, to name just a few.
We share these state ratings but we want to remind you that these ratings are only a small part of what happens at your local public school. We believe that the statistical system that has been put in place is very misleading. We invite you to go to the TEA website and peruse the 86 page manual that describes how a school receives an “A-F” rating. Someone in Austin, who has never set foot in Tom Bean, Texas, is incapable of rating the overall picture of our school.
Our school is your school. We welcome feedback from students, parents and community members on any suggestions for improving Tom Bean ISD.
We sincerely hope that you will join with us in making your state legislators aware of your support for and the benefits of public education. If you have any questions or wish to find out more about these issues, please do not hesitate to inquire with Kelly Lusk at 903-546-6076.
I have had multiple questions from parents and other concerned community members regarding school safety since the unfortunate school attack in Florida.Posted by Kelly Lusk on 3/2/2018
In May I will have completed my 18th year as an administrator. I take pride in the fact that student safety has always been my top priority and that I haven't lost a child under my care. I am the first to admit that school operations and the hazards we face on a daily basis, fires, tornados, lockdowns, snatchings, custody battles, verbal threats, transportation issues, fights, drugs, etc. can seem daunting at times. But, as administrators, we gain invaluable experience over the years in handling unique situations. That is where safety starts and we currently have three quality administrators at Tom Bean that are excellent in managing chaos. I have no doubt that they, and our teachers, will act appropriately in a crisis situation.
To get a bit more specific about the Italy, Tx and Florida shootings and the guns that have been taken from students in the D/FW metroplex recently, I would offer the following in hopes that it may ease your worries.
- As tragic as school shootings are, statistically, they are rare. Many situations are avoided by student vigilance and administrator actions.
- Having said that, we must constantly be vigilant and prepared as these situations could happen anywhere at any time, and we should not kid ourselves that Tom Bean is encapsulated in a glass bubble.
- The elementary was built with controlled access in mind. All of the doors are locked at all times and have a controlled access front entryway. The playground is fenced.
- We do have a camera system at the secondary campuses.
- We have an alarm monitoring system on all three campuses.
- We have in the past, and will continue, to pursue and discipline anyone posting threats on social media.
- Some of our safety improvements since I have arrived at Tom Bean 13 months ago:
- Provided for a police presence at all High School football and basketball games.
- Established relations with our local police force to invite them onto our campuses during school hours.
- Entered into a co-op with a local district to provide an alternative school setting for students with discipline or safety issues. We have assigned multiple students to this DAEP and/or our Special Ed Behavior Adjustment Unit (which was already in place) in my time here. I cannot get into the specifics of the assignments but I can say that none of them involved guns/knives.
- Completed the District of Innovation (DOI) process. One of the policies in this DOI process includes giving the Principal the authority to immediately revoke the transfer status of a student who has had either multiple or severe discipline issues.
- Re-routed traffic from between the HS and MS and improved the bus loading/unloading procedures.
- Provided an anonymous procedure for students to report bullying at the secondary campuses.
Since the shootings in Florida, I have met with the TB Chief of Police. He brought several ideas to us that I hope to pursue in the near future.
In summary, I don't think anyone can guarantee another's safety 100% of the time but we are not going to put our head in the sand and ignore issues. We will continue to monitor and make all improvements of which we are capable.
The truth is our community and our students also must have a stake in the game by reporting any and all concerns to us. Remind your children how important it is to immediately report any safety concern, including prohibited items, safety-related rumors, threatening online activity and/or suspicious behavior they observe. It is critical that all of us be watchful for any warning signs that may come to light on social media or in everyday conversation so that violence can be prevented.
Parents with suggestions or concerns related to school security are encouraged to contact their campus principal or myself.
Recently our Governor released a statement condemning public schools for their actions regarding the delivery of Special Education services to public school students in our state.Posted by Kelly Lusk on 1/31/2018
His statement is a response to a dispute between the Texas Education Agency and the United States Department of Education regarding Special Education in Texas. It is my job as a superintendent to best explain his comments to our parents and citizens.
At the heart of the dispute is a cap, or limit, to the number of students that on average should be admitted to a SPED program. Over a decade ago, the TEA placed an artificial cap of 8.5% of the student body that should be in a SPED program. If a school went above that limit, the campus or district received a substandard rating in relation to its SPED program.
Regardless of the governor’s statement, I can say that in the three school districts in which I worked since that requirement went into effect, including Tom Bean, we never denied or attempted to deny a qualifying student placement in the Special Education Program. We put student’s first, not an artificial rating established by those in Austin.
Many speculate that the leadership in Austin are continuing an intentional attack on public schools in an effort to discredit schools to further the agenda of shifting public money into private schools and privately owned charter schools. I am not making that claim but since this cost cutting measure was mandated by the TEA, not districts, it is ironic that the governor places the blame on public school districts. The fact is the 8.5% cap placed schools in a no-win situation.
I recently read a letter written by Michael Cardona, superintendent of schools in San Marcos, Texas, that was published in the San Marcos Record. It does an excellent job of outlining some of the issues we are facing in the public school system and our frustration that our leaders in Austin seem content with pointing fingers and raising smokescreens to mislead the public while real issues are not addressed. Mr. Cardona’s letter follows below:
Dear Governor and Elected Officials,
I was disheartened to say the least regarding the recent statement made by our Governor:
The past dereliction of duty on the part of many school districts to
serve our students, and the failure of TEA to hold districts
accountable, are worthy of criticism, said Governor Abbott. TEA
must take steps now to significantly increase oversight provided
to ensure our special education students are receiving the services
they deserve. But while the problems identified in the report started
long before your arrival at TEA, our parents and students
demand significant actions be taken now to improve special
education in Texas.
Since our Governor expresses the right to criticize, perhaps as a public school superintendent, I have the right to express some sentiments that would help the public in their perceptions of this pernicious attack on school districts.
First, it was exactly that recommendation during the 79th Legislature (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/interim/78/Ed84h.pdf ) that got the State of Texas in this predicament. While it may not have been our current commissioner in office, the recent fiascos with a no-bid contract and the removal of someone he hired to oversee special education is worthy of criticism and investigation.
Second, TEA, under a former commissioner, established the inconsistent mandates not school districts. As a reminder to the Governor, public school districts serve our students and will serve our students based on their disability but it was TEA who mandated pushing students into the box and not planning based on the student’s needs. As a reminder, it was this current fixation with standardized testing which forced districts to test all students on the regular STAAR or EOC regardless of what was best for the student.
If you want to criticize anyone, criticize politicians who have politicized the educational system and have continued to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the current state of the educational system. Furthermore, politicians who claim to be Christian, the moment they attack and demean an educational system they are meant to support, aren’t demonstrating the Christian values they say they live. Jesus did not feed some, he fed all. Public school systems do not exclude some, they include all. Are we perfect? No, but we try daily to meet our students needs in their educational journey.
A little about myself, I went to private Catholic school K-12, Texas A&M University, and have been a public school educator for 26 years (I am a former special education teacher). I went to a segregated system, yes, a segregated system that my parents paid for by working multiple jobs. They paid their property tax and my mother is still appalled by the notion of a voucher because she made a choice knowing her responsibility was to also pay for her property taxes yearly.
Everyone in my educational experience was like minded. If they did not conform, they were uninvited and sent to the public school in their attendance zone. In my entire 13 years of private education, I had experience with one student who would have qualified for special education services and that was in high school. He was with us for two years before he passed away his sophomore year. It was my fellow classmates and myself who would help him because he did not have an instructional assistant or nurse to help him.
You see, private schools do not have to meet those needs. In the public school district worthy of your critique, we would service that student with either an instructional assistant or for some students a nurse. Many public school districts also currently serve students who require special education services but are in home school or private school.
I digress though. A major difference and the biggest difference in my private school education was the lack of focus on standardized testing. I took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the high school entrance exam for Catholic Schools, and the SAT. At no time in my entire private educational experience was I burdened with having to pass numerous standardized tests or else I would not be deemed worthy. At no time in my journey did teachers have the burden of meeting an accountability test that does not even measure what students will experience in real life.
Politicians created the accountability system that burdens students, parents, and teachers. We Students and teachers should not be getting physically ill because of an accountability system that is incongruent with the needs of the students. Should we be held accountable? Absolutely. We have TSI, ASVAB, AP, ACT, PSAT, and SAT that provide us with the roadmap to prepare students to be career, college, or military ready. We potentially would need to look at something for elementary and middles schools perhaps at 5th and 8th grade that helps us ensure that students are on track but not a punitive system that creates an environment that frankly private school systems do not have to worry about.
The public school system you seek to critique has continued to push forward even though accountability has continued to change and is an ever continuous moving target. The weight of the accountability system, imposed by legislators and mandated by TEA is your responsibility.
As a leader, I may not have been responsible for some things that happened prior to my arriving but I own them. I accept responsibility for everything that happens in my district. For you to absolve the current commissioner and yourself by this attacking letter displays a lack of leadership.
The public needs to understand that there are many ways for a public school system to fail but only one way to succeed. At one point, high schools had numerous metrics that would result in them as being rated as not successful. I am being kind when I say numerous. There should not be a myriad of ways for a high school to be rated as improvement required and only one way for a high school to be successful.
This system is not being created by those school districts you critique but rather by this constant movement to attack, in an un-Christian manner, a system that should be supported as per the Texas Constitution. Article Seven Section 1 of the Texas Constitution sums it up fairly well, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of
the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
It is my hope that the public seeks to understand the complexity of the education system that has been created by politicians. All of our public school students, parents, and teachers deserve our legislators to perform their duties as stated in the Texas Constitution.
Michael A. Cardona, Superintendent of Schools
Cc: Governor Abbott & San Marcos Daily Record
Why did we approve the expenditure of so much money on two big ticket items when the school is facing financial struggles?Posted by Kelly Lusk on 1/3/2018
Similar to the blog of December 20, members of the Board of Trustees asked that I write an open letter to the Faculty, Staff and Parents of Tom Bean ISD in regard to the approval of the purchase of two high ticket items at the December board meeting. The two items were a suburban and a plasma cutter.
The suburban will replace the truck that was totaled in an accident this summer. The truck had been used in the transportation department only but the suburban will be designated for student transportation. Currently, we have three vehicles in the transportation fleet to use when carrying small numbers of students or employees to their destinations, two of which are tied up on a daily basis on regular transportation routes. Thus, the need for another vehicle is pressing at this time.
The plasma cutter is to be used in the ag mechanics and ag fabrication classes to give hands on experience to students in the use of high tech equipment. The Sherman area has many machine-type manufacturing jobs and our students will have a better chance to compete for these with the appropriate experience.
So while the need for these items is clear, we must acknowledge that it is no secret that Tom Bean, along with many of our public schools, is facing severe budget issues. This is due in large part to the effort of many in our legislature to defund public education by shifting your local property tax dollars, which are designated for the support of public schools for all students, to
private corporations (charters) and private schools (vouchers). While doing this the state has reduced its percentage of funding schools to 47th in the country, creating a burden on the local property tax owner and forcing property tax rates to skyrocket.
One might ask how we are able to purchase these items in this political climate?
The Board felt, and I agree, that a short explanation to this question and how the purchases of these items relate to the overall budget would be in order, since many are not able to attend our school board meetings.
The answer comes in the design of school funding. Much of the money we receive from the State and Federal government is designated to be used in certain areas, Special Education dollars or the School Lunch Program being the best examples of designating federal money. Another category of funding, this from the state, is known as Career and Technology or CATE.
Traditionally CATE money is spent on vocational courses only, but in recent years the allowable courses have been broadened. Vo-tech and CATE courses can be very expensive so funding is tied to student participation. The amount of CATE money received is based on multiple factors including enrollment and student contact hours (FTEs) in CATE courses. As more students enroll in CATE courses, the funding level increases. We were very conservative when establishing a CATE expenditure budget at our budget workshops last May/June. We discussed these purchases but felt it was best to wait until we got deeper into the school year before we committed to them. We established our CATE expenditure budget at $257,000. As we are getting deeper into the school year we are projecting that our CATE FTEs have increased from 50.21 in the 2016-17 school year to 58.55 this year. Therefore, while we may not receive an overall increase in funding, we should have an increase in CATE money. We have estimated that the school district will receive $321,000 in CATE money. Thus, we have around $64,000 in our CATE funds that have not been designated. This must be spent on CATE courses at the high school level. It may not be spent at the elementary level.
We felt these purchases would be the best expenditure of these funds to serve our students. Once again, we are very conservative with your tax dollars and we needed to wait and watch several factors before this was approved.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
New Opportunity for Dual Credit StudentsPosted by Kelly Lusk on 12/20/2017
At Monday night’s school board meeting, our school board took a step that will give our students and parents a boost. Beginning in the 2017-18 spring semester, Tom Bean ISD will reimburse students $50 if they achieve a passing grade in a college credit or vo-tech course taught as a Dual Credit course at Grayson College through Tom Bean ISD. We feel that this will illustrate to our students and parents that we support them in their efforts to lay a strong foundation as they prepare for their education beyond high school.
We already have many juniors and seniors that attend Grayson College and it is the hope of our Board of Trustees that this will assist them and attract others to give Grayson College a try. Whether it be to pursue an Associate’s Degree, a Vo-tech certificate, or to take college courses with the intent of transferring to a university, it is our belief that Grayson College is an outstanding institution and is the ideal place for our students to begin their post-graduate education.
I wanted to briefly review an outline of the discussion at the Board meeting regarding spending funds in this manner. Tom Bean, like all public schools, receives money from the state and federal government. A substantial amount of this money must be targeted, or spent, in a way that satisfies the requirements of receiving this money. As part of our overall funding, Tom Bean receives something known as High School Allotment money from the state of Texas.
Texas Education Code 39.234(a) outlines the programs on which this money may be spent. Programs that expand participation in dual credit enrollment are allowable under this code.
The school has projected that it will receive around $54,000 in High School Allotment money during the 2017-18 school year, which is a little bit more than was received last year.
100% of this money must be spent on activities and programs designated under the HS Allotment code. Therefore, since the school had an excess of funds that were not budgeted, the school board made the decision to spend these dollars in an attempt to promote the expansion of dual credit opportunities for students.
This truly is an opportunity for our students to explore options beyond high school. Currently, we have four dual credit courses that qualify under this program but we hope to offer more options in the 2018-19 school year.
Please have your high school students check with our high school counselor for specific requirements and guidelines.
Thank you First Baptist Church-Tom BeanPosted by Kelly Lusk on 11/16/2017
I just wanted to publicly thank FBC-Tom Bean for adopting our teachers and staff and praying for us. Your prayers are appreciated. We thank you. As we move towards the Thanksgiving Break, I am thankful that, regardless of our faults and shortcomings, you chose to be positive and build us up.
New School YearPosted by Kelly Lusk on 8/28/2017
August 26, 2017 - I appreciate the welcome that I have received in Tom Bean. All have been kind and I want to say thank you.
In the fall of 1990, I began my career in education and I have looked forward to the first day of school every year. This year is no different. I’m looking forward to all of our Tomcats and Lady Tomcats returning Monday morning. After all, the students are the reason all of us come together to provide the best school system we can possibly create.
I must admit that this year I have grave concerns. While those of us in Tom Bean are working to create the best for our students. There are many in Austin who are working against our kids. For the last 10 or more years there has been a movement in the state to eliminate public schools. It started slowly at first but has slowly gathered steam and has found itself entrenched in the state Senate.
Make no mistake. Many in the state Senate want to twist the public school system into one that no longer serves all of the students of our state. Their goal is to defund public education by funneling tax dollars towards private schools, by way of vouchers, and towards privately controlled corporations, by way of charter schools.
I have always been a person that has understood that our public schools will never be funded as they should. There are only so many tax dollars and there are many needs across the state. We are a public entity and we will sometimes just have to do without and make due with what we have. Even as our current legislative special session just closed, I feel no ill will that, although we have added hundreds of thousands of students, we will be operating the public schools with less money per student than we had in 2003. Texas ranks 46th in the country in funding for public schools. But, “It is what it is,” and our Texas public schools will get it done.
What does raise my eyebrows is that I thought I would never see the day when our schools would be attacked by the leaders of our state but, unfortunately, that day has come.
Maybe I’m old fashioned but I just can’t reconcile myself as to why anyone would want our local tax dollars, collected to support a system of public schools for all children, to be funneled away to a privately held charter school corporation that is not accountable to the local taxpayer. Charter schools use a similar per student funding system and thus do not save the state a penny. It is my opinion that by setting up an alternative system of education neither system can reach its full potential. There is no room in the state budget for both and the two systems will work against one another. My opinion is that a profit driven corporate school will not be capable of making the best decision for students when it affects the bottom line, especially higher need special education students.
So, the question for you to answer is: Do you want the students of Tom Bean educated by a corporation with a home office in Dallas, Houston or New York? Or do you want the school to be run by a locally elected school board with roots in Tom Bean. Do you want the decisions on how to spend your tax dollars made by people you elect or by people who have no connection to Tom Bean? Would you rather have your tax dollars spent in Tom Bean or funneled into the pockets of privately held corporations and foundations?
I’ve never claimed to be perfect but I have dedicated my life to serving the public schools of our communities and it pains me to watch slick politicians in Austin spread misinformation about public education. I have done my best to serve ALL of our students, regardless of who they were or where they came from, and treated them as equals. While at school I consider them my children. I take it personal when the Lt. Governor labels me an “educrat.” I’m just a small-town guy who has chosen to dedicate my career to kids. Don’t label me an educrat. I am an educator and I’m proud of it.
Our Lt. Governor recently compared the Speaker of the House to someone who would have sneaked out of the Alamo. As a history teacher, I see a different point of view. I see the Speaker of the House as the defender of the Alamo against Santa Anna and the State Senate, who came to rape, pillage and burn our public schools.
Unless changes are made at the legislative level, specifically the state Senate, our public schools, including Tom Bean, will cease to exist.
The following is a letter written by Laura Yeager from the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS). I think it sums up the feelings of those of us who support our children and have watched our State Senate work to dismantle our public school system (My highlights). Take care and God Bless.
I am sad, disappointed, and above all, I am angry. Chairman Dan Huberty is disappointed, and the 5.4 million students in Texas public schools, their parents, the taxpayers who fund the schools, and the 700,000 Texans working in Texas public schools should be angry too. The Texas Senate shortchanged our kids again and we should be outraged all the way to the voting booth. On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives knuckled under and accepted the Senate’s committee substitute of HB 21, which originally was a school finance bill. In the end, it helps retired teachers with health insurance costs, helps many ASATR districts, and will help a small number of students with disabilities get some extra resources. It also will eliminate the small school penalty. Still, it is nothing compared to what the House bill would have done.
When HB 21 was voted out of the House August 7th, 2017 (130-13) it would have infused $1.8 billion into the public education system, including a $210 per WADA increase to the basic allotment that would help just about every student in the state. It also had a good chunk of money to help districts facing hardships from the expiration of ASATR, a new dyslexia weight, a slightly increased weight for bilingual education, increased CTE funding, and more. The Senate version of HB 21 introduced last Friday, August 11th, slashed $1.5 billion from the bill, had ZERO increase in the basic allotment, no increased weights, and no other systemic changes. The Senate’s HB 21 provides $311 million, including $150 million for ASATR hardship grants over the next two years, $41 million to slowly phase out the small school penalty, $60 million for charter facilities funding, $60 million for traditional public schools’ facilities funding via the EDA, and $40 million for two two-year grant programs for dyslexic and autistic children. The Senate craftily threw in the $212 million for retired teachers so the House couldn’t easily say no to this pittance of a bill. By countering with this bill, the Senate, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor showed loud and clear that they do not support public education and that they do not intend to fund it. Additionally, instead of using money from the bulging “Rainy Day Fund,” the Senate chose to take money from already cash-strapped Medicaid programs serving our poorest children.
When HB 21 was finally heard on the Senate floor late on Sunday night (after the Senate had pushed the proverbial snooze alarm countless times during the weekend), many Democratic senators proposed updating the weights for educating bilingual students, and increasing the basic allotment that would grow the pie for all students and districts. Chairman Taylor replied repeatedly that the system is broken and that he doesn’t want to add money he can’t take away. He explained that the Senate sees HB 21 as a 2-year bridge until their “commission” can come up with a new way to approach school finance. Senators Van Taylor, Huffines, Hall, and others spent much of the evening praising efficiency and competition, charter schools, home schools, and private schools. They said that they want to see which programs are working and then just fund those rather than funding all.
I am extremely grateful to Chairman Huberty, the House Public Education Committee, and above all to Speaker Straus for focusing on what is important–investing in and educating our children. While 95% of Texas kids go to underfunded and micromanaged public schools, the state has continued to reduce its percentage contribution to public education year after year and forced a growing tax burden on local taxpayers while not even spending those funds for education. The House acknowledged this reality and grappled with real solutions.
I was hopeful on Saturday when Rep. Phil King, the House sponsor of the commission on public school finance bill, allowed a number of excellent amendments that would guide the commission to study the important questions like how much should we be paying to educate our kids? How much more does it cost to educate students with various needs? Amendments also broadened the list of who would serve on the commission including additional educators, and it would have required the commission to hold open meetings. Unfortunately, since the Senate rolled SB 16, Chairman Taylor’s public education finance commission bill into HB 21, it reverts to the Senate version that requires none of the good things listed above.
Wednesday morning, Governor Abbott was on a radio program where he explained that the school finance commission will act like an ISD sunset commission. As one could predict based on Chairman Taylor’s comments, they see the commission not as a way to improve how we fund our schools, but as a chance to determine if we should even have public schools as we know them or if there is a more “efficient” and “effective” way to deliver education at a lower cost.
In my humble opinion, our kids are not widgets and their education is not where we should be scrimping. The view that education is a business and that we should have competition, winners, and losers, doesn’t make sense in the provision of a common good. If that is how we choose to approach education, then our democracy is headed to a much faster demise than I imagined. There has been an intentional creation of a scarcity mindset by leaders who don’t support public education, who prefer to see it as a business, and maybe even have some friends who will profit off this growing industry. By cutting funding and increasing the hoops through which public schools must jump, would-be education allies are forced to fight against each other for limited resources. Representative Senfronia Thompson hit on this when she described what was wrong with the Senate’s version of HB 21. “In this bill, they (the Senate) are pitting children against children, school districts against school districts, and teachers against children.” For years, they have pitted rural against urban, poor against rich, parents against districts, and teachers against kids by limiting vital resources. This is how you cut the knees off your opponents. Force them to fight amongst themselves while you make off with the goodies. I have a friend who grew up extremely poor. She had many siblings and they were always hungry. One of her brothers died unexpectedly and the family was heartbroken. However, with one fewer person at the dinner table, she sometimes got to eat a whole egg, instead of just part of one. Her story stayed with me and reminds me of what our leaders are doing to our public schools. By making us all fight for every last resource, we get distracted from our common goal of electing leaders who will invest in our students, our public schools, and the future of the great state of Texas.
The fact that educators are getting organized, rallying, and talking about voting out legislators and statewide leaders who are anti-public ed, spurred the Senate to add some money for retired teachers. (It also got bills on the call aimed at keeping teachers from organizing.) What it didn’t get us was more money for all the kids and all the schools. This is the time for the education community to come together, to register and to vote for leaders who will support public education and the children who are our future. Many thanks for your continued dedication to serving all children and being on the front lines with them no matter what odds you face and what limited resources you are given.
Respectfully, Laura Yeager
TACS Governmental Affairs