DSISD Legislative Priorities: 84th Legislative Session
- The change to five End-of-Course Exams has been well-received and effective for Dripping Springs High School students. DSISD educators and educational leaders also would favor reduction of elementary assessments (Grades 3-8 currently take 17 assessments).
- TRS Contribution
Legislation in 2013 created an additional TRS contribution for school districts that do not participate in the social security system. Initially, $330 million was allocated statewide to offset the addition of this tax for 2014-2015 but there was no provision for funding beyond 2014-15. Without additional relief, the impact to Dripping Springs ISD is approximately $350,000 annually (which equates to six teacher positions).
- TRS ActiveCare
Health insurance for public school employees covered under TRS ActiveCare has become increasingly unaffordable. Districts that participate in that system (about 90 percent statewide) cannot opt out of it or change carriers, regardless of rate increases or benefits offered. This year, an employee with coverage for himself and his family must pay $1,145 per month for the high-deductible (lowest rate) plan, then meet a $6,350 deductible ($1,675 per month on average). The state contribution to TRS ActiveCare has remained the same since its inception in 2002 at $75. State employees in the ERS system have their employee-only premium covered at 100 percent and the state pays half of the dependent coverage; educators deserve the same treatment.
- Instructional Materials Allotment
The cost of instructional materials previously was reimbursed to districts by the state through textbook funding. This funding method was replaced by the current Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA), which is insufficient to cover required adoptions and growth in enrollment. An increase in per-student IMA funding is needed to ensure districts are able to provide adequate instructional materials, support scheduled textbook adoptions, and provide technology to meet increased student standards and escalating costs.
- Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR)
In 2006, the Legislature required local school districts to compress their Maintenance & Operations tax rates operations by one-third, simultaneously established a formula component known as Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) to guarantee that the state would make up for the loss. The 82nd Legislature revised the Education Code to repeal ASATR effective Sept. 1, 2017. This scenario would result in approximately $1,000,000 of lost funding to DSISD in 2017. Restoration of ASATR funding, an increase in the basic allotment or an adjustment of the funding formula is essential for target revenue districts.
- New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA)
The New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA) previously provided funding for the operational expenses associated with the opening of a new campus. Districts were eligible for $250/ADA (Average Daily Attendance) in the first year of operation of the new campus. This is an important funding tool for fast-growth districts with expanding student populations. The former funding allotment would have provided in the neighborhood of $300,000 to mitigate the impact of the initial costs of opening the two new DSISD campuses in the fall of 2017 and approximately $50,000 the following year.
- Transportation Allotment
The transportation allotment, which exists to help districts cover the cost of transporting students to and from school, has not been adjusted since 1984 and does not adequately cover these expenses. Dripping Springs ISD’s transportation expenditures for fiscal year 2013-14 were $1,774,695, compared to the transportation allotment revenue of $530,391.
- Cost of Education Index (CEI)
The Cost of Education Index does not reflect actual cost-of-living disparities and has not been adjusted since 1991. It would be more accurate to tie the index to a self-adjusting value such as cost-of-living indices.
- Local decisions made by local school boards that understand their community and its needs reflect the essence of public education. School boards should have control over local decisions.
- The district supports the reduction of unfunded mandates by the state.
- Parents should have input and choice into the way their children are educated. However, redirecting state funding from public education for use in funding private education is not feasible when public schools lack adequate funding. Proponents of vouchers, tuition reimbursement and tax credit legislation say that this type of legislation can help students in low-performing schools by giving them additional choices. DSISD does not have any low-performing schools. DSISD opposes this legislation because the potential benefit to some DSISD students does not outweigh the potential risk to all DSISD students from the reduction in state funding to our district, without a corresponding reduction in fixed operating costs.
SCHOOL CALENDAR START DATE
- In 2006, the Texas Legislature set a uniform start date for schools, restricting that the first day be no earlier than the fourth Monday in August. This makes it impossible to achieve fall and spring semesters of roughly equal length, which is academically optimal. Educators, students and parents strongly prefer for the fall semester to be complete prior to the winter break. Moving this decision back to the local level or providing some flexibility to consider earlier start dates would allow districts to develop calendars that best meet the needs of students.
Approved by the DSISD Board of Trustees 3.30.15