Expanded Legislative Agenda

2018 Interim Legislative Agenda

Objectives:

  • AISD believes that local control 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 improve post-secondary readiness and
    raise graduation rates.
  • AISD believes that suitable funding for mandated state requirements should be required,
    or that unfunded 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 Texas Legislature should:

  1. Align all accountability systems so that duplication and inconsistency can be reduced or
    eliminated. Districts and campuses should obtain full results simultaneously. Integrate
    and simplify reporting requirements to address deficiencies. Align identification for the
    Public Education Grant (PEG) program with state accountability ratings and apply those
    provisions to ISDs and state charter schools.
  2. Leave the authority to address low performing schools with the locally elected board of
    trustees. Local control 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.
  3. 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.
    Such information will help stakeholders better discern degrees of performance.
  4. Remove the high-stakes SSI retention provision for students assessed in grades 5 & 8.
  5. Make the provisions for individual graduation committees permanent.
    Stability and continuity of any acceptable accountability system are necessary for stakeholders to develop an understanding of the system and confidence in the ratings it yields. Once the new Texas accountability system is fully defined and the indicators formalized, the system should be allowed to take root without change in order to foster understanding and credibility of the system.

School Finance:

Legislation and an appropriation that provides funding for public education to meet the mission and objectives described in Texas Education Code, Section 4.001 are necessary to ensure that Texas produces a workforce that will sustain the state’s economy. Appropriate legislation and funding impacts three areas critical to public education – student achievement, qualified education workforce and local control.

The Texas Legislature should:

Student Achievement:
  1. Ensure that the School Finance Commission established by HB 21 passed in the First
    Special Session of the 85th Legislature honestly and vigorously engages its charge to
    recommend a new finance system that improves equity, reduces the dependence on
    local property taxes and ensures 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;
    • provide an increase in the basic allotment for all school districts;
    • adjust funding for regional variations in operating costs;
    • utilize updated formula weights that recognize the incremental cost of serving
      special populations, such as special education, career & technical education,
      bilingual/ESL and economically disadvantaged students; and
    • 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.
    • 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 operating budget.
  2. Provide tax relief to property owners and assist school districts in providing relevant
    learning environments by increasing the 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 Legislature.
  3. 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.
  4. Provide weighted career and technical funding for career and higher education
    exploration courses for all eighth-grade students to prepare them to make informed
    choices for high school coursework and endorsement plans for their college and career
    choices.
  5. Increase state funding for transportation and require that the funding be adjusted for
    inflation each biennium.
Qualified Education Workforce:
  1. Increase access to affordable health insurance for public school employees. Solutions
    include providing equal state funding for ERS and TRS-Active Care, providing districts
    with more than 1,000 employees the option to withdraw from TRS-Active Care, offering
    all healthcare plan options as consumer-driven plans with fully-administered HRA or HSA
    designs, and requiring a wellness plan component and corresponding premium
    incentives for all TRS-Active Care plans.
  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 Control:
  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. 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.
  3. 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 Texas Legislature should:

  1. Oppose 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. Grant autonomy to districts that implement effective school choice including, but not
    limited to the following:

    • exempt districts from requirements of the PEG designation;
    • allow charter and ISD partnerships to voluntarily be created with approval by duly
      elected school boards and appointed charter school boards, in addition to those
      partnerships authorized by Texas Education Code Section 11.174 for schools with
      unacceptable performance ratings, to ensure they are right for the community and
      that adequate resources exist to properly support the partnership; and
    • review and revise statutory requirements for in-district charters to create greater
      flexibility for boards of trustees to establish charters.
  4. Prohibit charters from expanding unless the charter school develops the following
    accountability and transparency measures to ensure the equal treatment of all students
    who choose to attend a state charter school:

    • 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;
    • 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 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 option.
  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.

Exhibit A

Arlington Independent School District

Unfunded Mandates - Sample List

  1. 22:1 Student/Teacher Ratio Grades K-4 (assumes a campus-wide average K-4 staffing ratio of 24:1) - $17,796,573
  2. TRS - payment on salaries above state minimum - $6,228,090
  3. TRS - state contribution for 1st 90 days on new employees - $449,998
  4. TRS-Care Retiree Insurance Plan (.77% of total payroll) - $2,110,176
  5. TRS-Supplemental 1.5% Contribution - $4,439,940
  6. Special Education Program - program mandates exceed state funding - $19,215,897
  7. Gifted and Talented Program - program mandates exceed state funding - $17,478,680
  8. End-of-Course Exams and STAAR Retesting - $695,122
  9. Locally Developed or Adopted Assessments - $90,000
  10. PEIMS Data Reporting - $3,625,744
  11. Budget & Tax Rate Hearing Notice - $4,461
  12. Schools FIRST Hearing Notice - $4,508
  13. Public Information Act Requests - $28,363
  14. Payment to county appraisal district to fund its operations - $1,902,771
  15. Elections - $78,000
  16. Criminal Records Checks - $32,086
  17. Cameras in Self-Contained Special Education Classrooms - $1,122,698

Sum of Sample Unfunded Mandates: $75,303,106

2017-18 Operating Budget (net of Capital Outlay): $516,517,343

Percent of 2016-17 Operating Budget: 14.58%