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.
|Feb. 20, 2017|
Good morning! Last week I mentioned a few legislative issues that we are watching closely. I was hopeful that Teacher Retirement would be off the table this session, but it appears that may not be the case. While in Austin a few weeks ago, I heard about a clear connection between TRS and vouchers. Whenever legislation is proposed, a nonpartisan body, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), studies it and decides if it will cost the state budget any funding. If it does, it attaches what is called a fiscal note. Bills with large fiscal notes are scrutinized carefully for obvious reasons. It appears that one of the concerns about vouchers, even among those who philosophically agree with them, is the potentially large fiscal note generated by an impact on TRS.
The thinking goes like this: if a large-scale voucher system were put into place and if students left public schools to take advantage of the voucher that would, in turn, eventually require fewer employees in the public schools. In this way, there would be fewer people paying into TRS and this gap would generate the large fiscal note. So, those who want to do away with TRS as a defined benefit system (the current guaranteed pension at retirement) and put in a defined contribution system (like a corporate 401k) have even more reason to want this. If TRS became a defined contribution system, it would essentially erase the fiscal note that vouchers would produce. In this way, some opponents of public schools would get two things they want – vouchers and radical change to TRS. This is something we and all retired educators must be watchful of as it clearly impacts our ability to attract talent to public education.
A report out recently looks at the differences in how Texas’ ISDs and charter schools spend their funds. ISDs spend more money per child on instruction and instructional resources; student transportation (charters are not required to provide transportation); food services; health services; security; guidance, counseling and evaluation services; and extracurricular activities. Charters spend more money per student on general administration; facility maintenance; and school leadership. You can draw
your own conclusions about how you think public dollars should be spent educating Texas children.
Last week we had our first budget workshop with the NISD Board. We start by looking at the federal and state landscape with regard to funding and then narrow down to local issues. Despite a lot of planning and saving, for the first time in years, we will really need to count on improvements in state funding to avoid running deficit budgets. The legislature must make education funding a priority!
One of the great things about social media is the ability to share the fantastic things students are involved in. Lately, there have been many Twitter posts about success in robotics. I want to thank all of the hard working teachers who support our robotics and other enrichment programs. We add value to students in thousands of ways, but I really believe that, for some students, what we offer outside of the regular day is as powerful and important as what we offer during the day. In this way we are able to customize for our learners.
Save the date for the 2017 NEF Superhero 5K Run/Walk & Family Wellness Fair, presented by CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. The event is on Saturday, May 6, at SeaWorld. A big thanks to staff that serve as 5K team captains and lead the way in making this a successful community event. Click here for race details and to sign up.
Finally, in reaction to my comment a few weeks ago about our need for “restless dissatisfaction,” Academic Technology Coach Elizabeth Robles sent me a blog post that quotes well-known educator Dylan Wiliam. The post is around the notion of creating and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement. Wiliam said, "If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.” I would say that this applies to all of us – not just teachers. Being dissatisfied with the status quo and doing something about it is the only way good organizations can hope to become great.
Have a great week!