OBJECTIVES

  • AISD believes that local authority produces stronger policies and programs to enhance the educational program and improve student performance.
  • AISD believes that relevant instructional programs that reflect and compliment the provisions of HB 5 (83rd Legislative Session) will increase college, career and military readiness and raise graduation rates.
  • AISD believes that suitable funding for mandated state requirements should be required, or that unfunded and underfunded state mandates be eliminated.

ACADEMIC ACCOUNTABILITY

An effective, efficient and equitable state academic accountability system is necessary to carry out the mission and objectives of the Texas public education system. Texas’ current academic accountability system provides confusing information to parents about the performance of their child’s school and is too complex for school districts to navigate effectively. The state accountability system should be a tool that helps local school boards and educators improve student performance.

The 86th Texas Legislature should:

  1. Leave the authority to address low performing schools with the locally elected board of trustees. Local authority still depends on state standard academic measures; however, it allows the local board of trustees to determine the best response to the results of those state measures.
  2. Within the A-F rating system, more clearly define the performance represented by each letter grade and differentiate varying degrees of performance within the grade. Design the system in a manner that appropriately recognizes demographic variables across districts.
  3. Remove the high-stakes SSI retention provision for students assessed in grades 5 & 8.
  4. Modify accountability rules to include non-test based indicators in addition to STAAR results for calculating elementary and junior high school ratings.
  5. Make the provisions for individual graduation committees permanent.
  6. Expand the list of industry-based certifications used for College Career Military Readiness credit in accountability to include any and all industry-based certifications rather than the select few currently used.
  7. Ensure that all data used to determine district and campus accountability ratings are readily accessible to and verifiable by school districts.
  8. Eliminate Public Education Grant (PEG) designations.

SCHOOL SAFETY & MENTAL HEALTH

Public safety is a priority for the Arlington ISD.

The 86th Texas Legislature should:

  1. Work with school districts to create a platform that identifies students with mental health needs that pose a threat to public safety;
  2. Provide appropriate ongoing funding for identification, services and supports for students with mental health needs;
  3. Provide appropriate funding and assistance for threat assessments; and
  4. Allow school districts flexibility to determine how safety and mental health funds are spent in order to best meet local needs.

SCHOOL FINANCE

Legislation and an appropriation that provides funding for public education to fully meet the mission and objectives described in Texas Education Code, Section 4.001 and the 60x30TX higher education plan impact three areas critical to public education – student achievement, qualified education workforce and local control.

The 86th Texas Legislature should:

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT:

  1. Revise the school finance system with long-term solutions to improve equity, reduce the dependence on local property taxes and ensure that Texas develops a workforce to fortify the state’s economy. The new system should:
    • provide tax relief to property owners and maintain the state’s investment in developing a competitive workforce by dedicating state budget savings derived from property value growth to public education;
    • reduce the reliance on recapture to fund public education and ensure the state funds at least 50% of the total cost of education;
    • provide an increase in the basic allotment for all school districts and include a mechanism to adjust the basic allotment each biennium for inflation;
    • adjust funding for regional variations in operating costs;
    • utilize updated formula weights that adequately recognize the incremental cost of serving special populations, such as special education, career & technical education, bilingual/ESL and economically disadvantaged students;
    • roll the current allotments for gifted/talented, high school and new instructional facilities into the basic allotment in order to simplify the funding formulas and provide greater flexibility in addressing local needs;
    • include an increased enrichment opportunity beyond the 6 pennies currently authorized, and permit districts to levy a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate up to the new maximum before requiring a tax election; and
    • require that property tax statements and Truth-in-Taxation notices include statements disclosing the contribution of local funds and state funds for the public school district’s general operating budget.
  2. Provide tax relief to property owners and assist school districts in providing relevant learning environments by fully funding the $40 guaranteed yield per student for Existing Debt Allotment and Instructional Facilities Allotment set forth in HB 21 passed by the First Called Session of the 85th
  3. Provide weighted career and technical education funding for eligible courses taught to students in 6th – 8th grade to prepare them to make informed choices for high school coursework and endorsement plans for their college and career choices.
  4. Provide flexibility to spend State Compensatory Education funds on a school-wide basis to improve student performance, similar to school-wide provisions for Title 1 funding.
  5. Increase state funding for transportation and require that the funding be adjusted for inflation each biennium. The Transportation allotment has not been updated since 1984 and currently funds less than 30% of total transportation costs.
  6. Reject legislation that imposes financial responsibility or penalty on school districts to cure the state’s prior policy limiting the identification of students for special education services.

QUALIFIED EDUCATION WORKFORCE:

  1. Pass legislation that authorizes Arlington ISD to exit TRS-ActiveCare to establish a pilot, independent healthcare insurance plan for its employees that implements measures intended to address root causes of major cost drivers. The legislation will:
    • exit Arlington ISD from the TRS-ActiveCare System effective August 31, 2020;
    • require TRS-ActiveCare to provide Arlington ISD all of the District’s health care and prescription cost experience data from the three previous plan years immediately upon passage of the bill; and
    • require Arlington ISD to report baseline and longitudinal performance data to TRS Board of Trustees and the Legislature annually by December 31 of each year for three years.
  2. Ensure the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) has actuarially sound funding. Maintain TRS as a defined benefit plan and increase the state’s contribution to TRS as both are significant strategies to recruit and retain qualified teachers and support staff.

LOCAL AUTHORITY:

  1. Permit districts to hold an authorization election rather than a tax ratification election to obtain voter approval for future assessment of the remaining M&O pennies authorized by law.
  2. Reject legislation that would impose caps on revenue a District can generate, including tax caps, appraisal caps and revenue caps.
  3. Reject legislation that expands required ballot language, mandates November election dates or requires a super majority for school bond and tax rate elections.
  4. Grant public school districts flexibility to invest surplus oil and gas royalties in accordance with the Texas Trust Code, similar to the provisions included in HB 1472 passed by the 85th Legislature.
  5. Provide relief from current unfunded state mandates and not add additional unfunded mandates (see sample list of unfunded mandates at Exhibit A).

SCHOOL CHOICE

The Arlington ISD is a district that offers choice for students and parents. While a school voucher program is perhaps the most polarizing issue in public education today, public school districts should be recognized for providing true choice to their constituents.

The 86th Texas Legislature should:

  1. Reject any legislation that diverts public funds to private institutions that are not accountable to the public for the use of those funds.
  2. Incentivize school districts to provide program choices by fully funding transportation costs for choice programs.
  3. Expand flexibilities available through the district of innovation regulations.
  4. Require more transparency and accountability for charters, including: 
  • transparency on charter school applications and student admission into charter schools;
  • enrollment demographics reflective of local demographics;
  • procedures to ensure “wait lists” are accurately reported to TEA on a semi-annual basis pursuant to a consistent uniform definition of a “wait list” student;
  • teacher certification requirements comparable to those required for public school teachers;
  • posting teacher certifications and years of experience;
  • releasing directory information consistent with the Public Information Act requests and eliminate any loopholes that allow this information to be withheld;
  • posting financial data:
    • expenditures per student for each campus,
    • debt per student, and
    • the bond rating.

PREKINDERGARTEN

Pre-K programs such as formula-funded public school pre-K, the High-Quality Pre-K Expansion Grant and the Pre-K Early Start Grant provide access for children who need pre-K most.  Access to quality pre-K positively impacts academic readiness and performance.

The 86th Texas Legislature should:

  1. Provide weighted funding for pre-K students through the Foundation School Program formulas to fund early childhood education as a local district decision.
  2. Permit districts to offer full-day pre-K programs at some or all campuses as a local district option and provide funding for the full-day program.

UNFUNDED MANDATES

  • 22:1 Student/Teacher Ratio Grades K-4 (assumes a campus-wide average K-4 staffing ratio of 24:1) — $17,941,000
  • TRS - payment on salaries above state minimum — $7,328,354
  • TRS - state contribution for 1st 90 days on new employees — $450,000
  • TRS - Care Retiree Insurance Plan (.75% of total payroll) — $2,939,894
  • TRS - Supplemental 1.5% Contribution — $4,462,147
  • Special Education Program - program mandates exceed state funding — $21,313,561
  • Gifted and Talented Program - program mandates exceed state funding — $18,360,460
  • End-of-Course Exams and STAAR Retesting — $718,147
  • Locally Developed or Adopted Assessments — $90,000
  • PEIMS Data Reporting — $3,648,136
  • Budget & Tax Rate Hearing Notice — $5,640
  • Schools FIRST Hearing Notice — $5,084
  • Public Information Act Requests — $29,724
  • Payment to county appraisal district to fund its operations — $1,917,123
  • Elections — $74,858
  • Criminal Records Checks — $32,092
  • Cameras in Self-Contained Special Education Classrooms — $1,122,698
  • Statutorily Required Public Notices — $10,542

SUM OF SAMPLE UNFUNDED MANDATES:

  • $80,449,459

2018-19 OPERATING BUDGET (NET OF DEBT SERVICE & CAPITAL OUTLAY):

  • 529,167,103

PERCENT OF 2018-2019 OPERATING BUDGET:

  • 15.20%