Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

March 16, 2015     
Good morning! I wanted to make you aware of a pro-public education rally that is scheduled in Austin next month. The group organizing the event is Save Texas Schools – the same group who organized an event in Northside during the 2013 legislative session to protest funding cuts to schools. This is a high-quality volunteer-led organization. More information about the rally can be found at http://savetxschools.org/
 
One of the many things being debated in Austin now is the prospect of tax relief. I won’t get into my opinions on whether that is good or bad except to say that whenever the legislature messes around with a complex school funding system it makes me nervous. As you probably know, property taxes fund most Texas school operations so a proposal to give property tax relief with a promise to “hold schools harmless” makes me REALLY nervous.
 
You may recall that after the last school finance lawsuit was resolved the legislature had to fix a part of the system declared unconstitutional and the way they choose to do that was to compress property taxes from a maximum of $1.50 to $1.00 over a period of two years. They created a business or so- called margins tax to replace the lost property tax revenue. Despite warnings from people on both sides of the political aisle telling them it would not work, the legislature rammed it through in a special session. In fact, it did not work and the result is a structural deficit that negatively impacts the state – including public schools – to this day to the tune of $2 billion per year.
 
The new plan to provide property tax relief is to increase the homestead exemption (currently set at $15,000) to 25% of the median home price in the state. That would be about $33,625 in 2015. The price tag for this is $2.5 billion in lost revenue over the next two years and would save the average homeowner a little more than $200 per year. Again, mine is not to say whether this is good or bad – you can develop your own opinion. However, mine is to say that this needs to be done in a way that
 
 
 
REALLY is revenue neutral to Texas schools. And the legislature has a poor track record on that front. I’ll have more to say about these plans in later editions.
 
I need to make you aware of a situation involving our health insurance. Right before Spring Break we found out that Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBSTX) had failed to come to contract agreements with the five Baptist Emergency Hospitals. These are the stand-alone emergency facilities that have been built recently – see the latest HR newsletter if you missed the initial announcement.
 
We now understand that the entire Christus Hospital System is scheduled to terminate their in-network contract with BCBSTX effective April 1, 2015. BCBSTX reports that negotiations are continuing in good faith. However, if a mutually acceptable agreement is not reached, the contract will terminate.
 
We are monitoring this situation very closely and we are aware that some of you may have planned hospital visits that may need to be changed should the negotiations fail. I apologize for the bad news on this front. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the situation will be resolved. However, we wanted you to be aware.
 
Recently we held our annual CLASS conference to honor and support all of the classified employees in our schools and departments. Each year, Organizational and Staff Development (OSD) and a steering committee organize this event. All of us know that our schools and departments could not run without great secretaries, but this event lets us formally say thank you to these important folks.
Thanks to Diana Ely, Director of OSD, the steering committee and all of our classified employees!
 
Finally, I want to thank Garcia MS principal Eric Tobias and Librarian Lucy Podmore for putting on an outstanding mayoral forum last week. The four leading candidates were on hand to answer questions created by current and former Garcia students. The student moderators were outstanding! Have a great week!
   
    BTW