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The coming train wreck

Two local school superintendents – HD Chambers from the Stafford Municipal School District and Louis Stoerner from the Alief Independent School District – wrote an op-ed for the Chron about the financial catastrophe that school districts are facing.

With a few exceptions, districts are faced with one option — asking voters to approve a tax increase through a tax-ratification election. However, most taxpayers are struggling and cannot support an increase. (It is interesting to note that locally elected school boards are the only elected entities in Texas not allowed to set their own maintenance and operations tax rate without an election.)

School district leaders are responsible for ensuring that our children graduate prepared for college or a career, and we must be good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars. However, the state also must provide adequate funding to support continually rising state and federal standards and requirements. Removing or suspending various unfunded or underfunded mandates is not a long-term solution for the school funding crisis but could help us get through these difficult economic times. However, a long-term fix must be found since school districts throughout the state are facing financial challenges that threaten the very core of public education and, in some cases, the future viability of public schools. No one is ready for the possible train wreck that lies ahead.

Basically, school districts’ funding is inadequate to cover rising costs. Many districts, especially the faster-growing ones, have responded by laying off employees, which is both unsustainable and just plain undesirable. Only the state can fix this for the long term. Given the way things work around here, you know what that means: Another school finance lawsuit is on the horizon. It’s a matter of when, not if. I’m sure the subject will come up tonight on Houston Have Your Say, whose topic is “Education Crisis”. Tune in tonight at 6 PM on KUHT (Comcast channel eight) to see a distinguished group of experts discuss the matter.

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