Aledo ISD’s Board of Trustees gathered bright and early on Monday morning, Oct. 2, casting a unanimous vote to join more than 50 districts across the state of Texas in a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency.
The crux of the suit is around the TEA’s accountability grading system that gives each district a letter grade between A-F, depending on standardized test scores administered by the state. In accordance with state law, the TEA is supposed to advise districts of the grading standards for the upcoming school year prior to the start of the academic year in August.
As of Oct. 2, the standards for the 2023-24 school year still have not been presented to schools across the Lone Star State.
“Essentially, the Texas Education Agency is required to provide to school districts across the state the standards by which we will be measured in the accountability system during the year that’s being measured,” stated Aledo ISD Superintendent, Dr. Susan Bohn. “That did not happen. It did not happen for the 2022-2023 school year. In fact, there are some things we still don’t understand about how we will be measured, and we’ve already started the 2023-24 year. That’s one issue related to the violation of law.”
Driving the wedge even deeper between school districts and the state’s top education department is the TEA’s intention to retroactively apply the current standards to previous graduating seniors dating back to the Class of 2022. Districts across the state are concerned the TEA has decided to raise standards without informing administrators what the target is they are to aim for, and retroactively holding them to the unknown standard, in a year when school choice and vouchers are significant points of discussion in Austin as Governor Greg Abbott prepares to call for a special session of the Texas Legislature.
Secondarily, the lawsuit also seeks to hold the TEA to new standards of transparency as it relates to how property tax dollars are dispersed.
“What continues to be challenging about this discussion for people is, just understanding school funding isn’t like your city budget where as your city grows, your funding grows,” stated Trustee David Lear. “Your state funding [for schools], is just a formula set by the state at a point in time. You get that number [of dollars] per student year after year after year, unless they change the basis of that formula. You continue to see what people pay for taxes. People know they’re paying more into the system. They don’t understand that doesn’t flow to the schools unless they change the formula.”
With the 2023-24 academic year underway, funding has been a significant issue of concern for districts across the state, including here in Aledo. While the state has billions of dollars earmarked for school funding, the Legislature failed to pass laws appropriating those dollars back in the spring congressional session. That failure has left public schools across the state in the unfamiliar position of having to adopt deficit budgets for the foreseeable future until such a time as the Legislature passes laws to fund schools.
For the current school year, Aledo ISD is able to fund all programs and personnel in spite of the budgetary shortfalls by making a 10-percent cut across all departments. However, unless the legislature passes appropriations bills to ensure schools are properly funded in short order, Bohn has already declared programs and personnel will have to be cut before the start of the 2024-25 school year.
“When schools talk about we’re not being funded properly, and we’re not keeping up with inflation, it’s just because that number was set back in 2019, or before that,” Lear commented. “That number may be good for that point in time, but as inflation grows and costs increase, everybody’s paying more into the system, but the money isn’t flowing to schools. Where is it going? I don’t know. But it’s not going to your schools. People are going to be frustrated, because they’re going to sense they’re paying more for schools, but we’re going to be talking about cutting programs. How does that make any sense? The reason is because, at the state level they are not changing the basic formula for school funding. That’s the impossible thing to explain to people. You’re paying more. The state pays less. We get the same thing.”
Dallas and Frisco ISD’s were already involved in the lawsuit. Along with Aledo, Prosper and Red Oak ISD’s joined the lawsuit on Monday.
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