Unsupported Fiscal Demands
Due to budgetary challenges facing State and Local Governments, and in the interest of being responsible stewards of tax revenue generated on behalf of our respective school districts, we request that no new programs or requirements on independent school districts be passed by the legislature, which include unsupported fiscal demands.
We have provided below five specific examples of legislated programs and requirements that have increased public school operating budgets. It is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the "hard costs" related to numerous laws and regulations required of public schools because the true costs are often reflected in staff time and effort to implement those programs and requirements with fidelity.
Although many of the required programs and activities have merit, it is important that the legislature give careful consideration to any new law or requirement that may have a financial impact at the school district level. Even though the fiscal note may indicate zero cost to the State, new requirements may have major costs to districts. Recent examples include:
- 4X4 Graduation Plan cost the District more than $6.2M. Beginning with the class of 2011, students are required to take four years of English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies to graduate under the Recommended High School Program. This requirement has caused to district to add additional mathematics and science teachers, and to undergo building renovations to construct and supply science lab space sufficient to schedule all students.
- Benefits Associated with State Pay Increase cost the District approximately $30,000. In 2009 the Legislature provided a pay increase specifically for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians. Although the legislature provided funds for the pay increase, they did not appropriate corresponding funds for local contributions to TRS, Medicare, unemployment compensation or workers' compensation.
- End of Course Exams could cost the District approximately $900,000.
The current wording indicates that a student who meets the minimum expectation, but does not meet the college ready standard must, be offered accelerated instruction. We believe that intervention services should only be required for those students who do not meet the passing standard. Under the current high stakes assessment program (TAKS), the only students for whom school districts are required to provide additional support are those who do not meet expectations. If the End of Course Exams are intended to assure college readiness, and if the expectation is that districts intervene to this standard, it will require additional support courses that are currently not available at the state level, additional materials and a change in staffing patterns. If the District applies the college ready standard on TAKS, 46% of Pflugerville ISD high school students would need to be served in accelerated instruction, which would result in the addition of approximately 18 teaching positions at a cost of over $900,000.
It is difficult to quantify the amount of time and staff that will be required to administer the large number of assessments under the new STAAR program. In order to reduce the amount of testing at the high school level, we advocate for ACT, SAT and AP exams being considered as substitutes for EOCs. The Texas Education Code (TEC), Â§39.025(a-1), requires the commissioner of education to "determine a method by which a student's satisfactory performance on an advanced placement test, international baccalaureate examination, an SAT Subject Test, or another assessment instrument determined by the commissioner to be at least as rigorous as an end-of-course assessment instrument ... may be used as a factor in determining whether the student satisfies" EOC assessment graduation requirements. Administrative rules on this topic will be adopted following the conclusion of the 82nd Legislative session.
- Fingerprinting of Staff cost the District approximately $45,900. In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB9), which required a review of the criminal histories of school district employees and other persons who have contact with students at school. SB 9 also included a requirement that contractors review the criminal histories of employees who have direct student contact. The district is responsible for the cost of obtaining the fingerprints. The district was also responsible for reviewing the criminal history record obtained against statutory and local standards. The district held a ten day session in June 2008 in which to complete this Legislative mandate. The costs included significant overtime pay for staff.
- Bus Evacuation Drills cost the District $31,352.The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2007 requiring that schools perform two evacuation drills each year. The drills often take time away from valuable classroom time and pose a logistical burden, particularly for smaller school districts that do not provide regular bus service. In Pflugerville ISD, bus evacuation training and drills were completed for all of the campuses in the 2008-2009 school year which took over 1,300 hours spread out over 11 months. The requirement to conduct drills has since been removed.
- Fitnessgram cost the District more than $15,000.
Fitnessgram was initiated with the 2007-2008 academic year. This assessment requires districts to annually measure all students’ level of fitness by administering and recording data on six separate physical fitness tests, which take approximately two hours for each student.
In addition to the actual costs of Fitnessgram (servers and software), significant academic time is needed in order to complete the six tests as well as teacher time to record the data in the Fitnessgram system. This time has to be taken from other academic areas. In high schools, where all students are not required to be in an activity-based course every year, this means scheduling students to miss classes, providing the time and facilities to change clothes and arranging staff time to administer the Fitnessgram. Since all teachers have a full compliment of classes every day, this requires hiring subs or asking teachers and other professionals to assist with Fitnessgram as an additional responsibility. The cost in missed instructional time and for teacher data entry is difficult to quantify, but PISD has spent more than $15,000 to implement Fitnessgram. We believe that only students in a PE course through 8th grade should be required to participate in Fitnessgram.
Often, the data gathering process for the cost of legislative mandates does not reflect the administrative cost for compliance and monitoring and the true cost of implementing legislative changes. We support a change in the Legislative Budget Board's (LBB) process for identifying the impact of changes in legislation. Currently, the LBB only reports the financial impact received from responding districts when considering legislation. It is assumed that districts that do not respond to the LBB's request do not have a cost of implementation. Often, the request for information is received too late to provide meaningful input into the process, or may require input from various sources, and the data gathering process may take more time than allowed by the LBB.
The District desires a relaxation of 22:1 student-teacher ratio policy to allow a district to make staffing decisions based upon the unique needs of each particular campus. We recognize the need for controlling the size of a campus classroom, but in a period of decreased funding, it is not always possible to comply with a strict ratio of 22 students per teacher. We request that legislation be developed that provides districts with flexibility on class sizes based on student populations, teacher strengths, and relevant student/teacher data. Pflugerville ISD would save approximately $1 million next year if elementary class sizes increased by one student.
The Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education have identified an aggressive plan for curriculum revisions. While we support changes in the curriculum to better prepare our students for the future, we cannot support the imposition of new curriculum standards without the necessary instructional materials for delivery. We also respectfully request that sufficient time elapse between curriculum adoptions to allow districts time to develop instructional strategies around the already adopted changes in curriculum prior to implementing new standards in other areas of the instructional program.