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.
|June 1, 2015|
Good morning! With any luck, the legislature will adjourn today – not to return until, hopefully, they have to deal with school finance after the Supreme Court issues a ruling sometime in 2016. The one thing that must be done each session is pass a budget and that was accomplished. The state will spend $210 billion in the next two years. That includes a small increase in spending on schools that will amount to about a 2% increase in our operating budget. There will also be a small amount of property tax relief. This is being accomplished, assuming voter approval in a November election, by raising the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. That will translate to a savings for the average Texas homeowner of about $126 per year.
The bottom line with regard to the state budget is that huge dollars are being left at the table unspent. The state will likely start the next biennium with a multi-billion dollar surplus – not to mention that the Rainy Day Fund is expected to be valued at more than $11 billion by 2017.
This has been a tough session for schools. Those who wish to privatize schooling have clear majorities and made real attempts to flex their muscle this session. However, on a positive note, many of their ideas such as “opportunity” school districts that would take over “chronically low-performing” schools, tying teacher compensation to student test scores, vouchers and many others died.
Unfortunately, it looks like A-F ratings for schools and districts will pass into law. Explaining why this is a bad idea is sometimes a struggle because it seems logical to rate schools the same way we “rate” students. However, unlike students who have many, many opportunities to earn a grade and many courses in which to be graded in, schools will get one letter grade that is supposed to summarize everything they do. That is ridiculous.
Further, those who promote A-F ratings believe that accountability should serve the function of punishment, rather than a function that drives additional resources for improvement. I say that
because if a school is rated ‘D’ or ‘F’ will it be easier to attract high quality teachers? Will it be easier to keep involved families enrolled? There is no coincidence that A-F is promoted by those who propose other ideas around the privatization of public schools.
However, there have been some positive outcomes from the session. Some high school students who meet various measures of proficiency will be allowed to graduate without having passed all of their end-of-course tests. Some positive changes in the accountability system are in the works and hopefully will pass in the last day of the session.
As I look back on the school year it has been one filled with the pride of accomplishment for NISD students and staff. We keep on making progress on many fronts and continue to enjoy the support of our community. This continued success and the positive reputation it contributes to are key to why NISD is considered a leader across Texas. Further, I believe that our trajectory continues to point upward. We have not yet reached our full potential and as long as we are willing to be reflective about our practice and look for opportunities we will continue to improve.
Looking forward to next year, we will continue to deal with student population growth. We expect to have about 105,000 students enrolled! State testing seems always to be with us and we will strive to do well without having our sole focus be spent on standardized testing. To that end, we will continue to speak about rigor and high expectations in every NISD classroom setting.
Personally, it has been my honor and pleasure to serve as your superintendent for another year and I look forward to many more years with Northside. I want to thank all of you for your work and advocacy on behalf of our organization and our very important clients – our children. I hope that the coming months allow you to slow down a little and enjoy the things that make you the happiest. For those who work through the summer – thank you. This will be the last issue of Woods’ Weekly for the school year
–have a great week and enjoy your summer!