On February 24, 2011, Spring Branch held a Legislative Town Hall meeting. A summary of the Town Hall prepared by Spring Branch is available here or after the jump below. In addition, the District recorded the meeting. The recordings appear in three parts below.
Texas is experiencing its worst budget crisis since World War II, according to fiscal experts. Spring Branch ISD residents who care about children are now paying close attention to what is occurring in Austin.
About 100 interested community members attended a special Legislative Town Hall meeting Feb. 24 in the SBISD Administration Building at 955 Campbell Road. Three members of the Texas House of Representatives took the time to attend this important forum, which focused on the state’s looming deficit of $15 billion or more. The operation of public schools is tied largely to school funding at the state level.
The 6 p.m. meeting in the Board of Trustees Meeting Room began with a warm welcome and general introduction led by SBISD Trustee and Legislative Liaison Susan Kellner. Other Trustees in attendance were Mary Grace Landrum, Board Vice President; Wayne Schaper Sr., Secretary; and members Pam Goodson, Theresa Kosmoski and Bob Stevenson. Board President Mike Falick was unable to attend.
The event’s Legislative Panel was composed of Republican State Reps. Dwayne Bohac, Dist. 138, and Jim Murphy, Dist. 133, and Democrat Jessica Cristina Farrar, Dist. 148. All three were introduced as consistent and reliable supporters of public education in Spring Branch.
Superintendent of Schools Duncan Klussmann talked about school finance and accountability issues. The district’s analysis of the state deficit leads to three broad scenarios for the district, none of which maintain current funding levels.
Forecasting estimates include the following:
• A $10 billion state deficit resulting in about $40 million less to SBISD
• A $7.5 billion state deficit resulting in about $30 million less to SBISD
• A $5 billion state deficit resulting in about $20 million less to SBISD
Payroll accounts for about 85 percent of the district budget, which means that personnel will be affected to some degree. Dr. Klussmann said that a structural deficit has occurred between school funding needs and state revenue because of changes dating back to 2006 and passage of House Bill 1. Legislators reduced property taxes for state homeowners by about one-third that year, but the special business tax that was expected to make up for that funding loss has not met predicted expectations.
The budget deficit will occupy Texas Legislators for months to come, but Superintendent Klussmann noted that another important education change is also under way. Beginning this fall, the state’s new accountability program known as STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) will replace the well-known TAKS, the statewide testing program that has been in place since 2003.
STAAR’s mandates include new grade 3-8 assessments and 12 end-of-course assessments that are required for graduation. New tests will begin in the 2011-2012 school year; end-of-course exams begin with next year’s ninth-graders.
In SBISD, meanwhile, Dr. Klussmann said that educators will remain focused on preparing every student for success after high school. The district’s key goal is for all its graduates to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, two-year associate’s degree, or two-year technical degree.
The Legislative Panel then took wide-ranging questions from Dr. Klussmann and audience members for the remaining time. In brief, all three Legislators said that they would either support or consider spending a portion of the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund, estimated at $9 billion, on public schools. All cautioned, however, that the deficit situation in Austin was serious and that it will likely require reductions in areas of government services, including education.
After thanking the local Legislators, Trustee Susan Kellner concluded the community forum on an upbeat note. Several SBISD parents have started a non-district group organized around public education issues. It is called Spring Branch Speaks. In the weeks ahead, this group plans to develop an email database of interested community members. It will also track proposed Legislation in Austin and alert group members when phone calls or visits are needed on particular issues.
To join Spring Branch Speaks, please visit www.springbranchspeaks.com.