Thursday, December 8, 2011

School Lawsuits. Council Endorsements.

Richardson's school board and Richardson City Council members took divergent positions this week, probably without even being aware of it. The school board sued the State over school finance. Council members endorsed one of the legislators responsible for our school finance mess.

In the current state budget, the RISD received $14.2 million less for this year's operating budget due to state cutbacks in education funding. Next year, RISD's operating budget will take a further $7.5 million hit. This is despite rising enrollments. Schools are adding students but the legislature isn't supplying the resources needed to educate them.

After the jump, what the RISD is doing about it. And how the city council members are making the schools' case more difficult.

Monday, the RISD school board voted unanimously to join school finance litigation against the State of Texas. School districts across the state are challenging state financing for education on either equity grounds or adequacy grounds. How much the state provides for education varies unfairly from district to district across the state. Also, the state finance system prevents local school districts from adequately meeting a state constitutional mandate to provide for an efficient system of public free schools.

But the "State of Texas" is an impersonal target to blame for the mess our school financing is in. Let's put a face on who is responsible. The state legislature is responsible for the state's school finance system and, for Richardson, especially with the recent legislative redistricting, the legislator responsible is Stefani Carter.

Coincidentally, this week Stefani Carter issued a press release bragging about securing more than 1,000 endorsements in her re-election campaign, including five members of the Richardson City Council. Maybe I just missed it, but I saw no evidence that any of the 1,000 endorsements came from the RISD school board or administrators, or any other school boards, for that matter. Maybe their reluctance to back Carter is because of what Carter was focused on during the last legislative session when funding for schools was being slashed. Go back and review Carter's priorities and you'll find schools weren't among them: "Carter Fiddles While Texas Burns."

Now, Carter is telling us she listens:
People want to know they are being heard, which is why we have made direct contact with more than 23,000 voters since September. By reaching out to voters throughout the new district and letting them know we share the same conservative values and vision for House District 102, we are able to earn their confidence and support.
Source: Stefani Carter.

Maybe five members of the Richardson City Council are being heard, but if so, I'd like to know what they are telling Carter. Instead they should be withholding their endorsements until she hears that a strong, thriving community is built on strong, thriving schools. The RISD's lawsuit against the state is evidence that Carter is not hearing that message. The needs of local schools are not being heard. It's not just the school children who will pay the price. The entire Richardson community will suffer as well.


Nathan Morgan said...

There have been countless experts who have been highly critical of how poorly public schools do the job of educating for all the billions of public money applied.

The public school system has become quite an enterprise. If it had to survive based on its performance, it would starve.

Given the sum of its brainpower, one would think these bloated administrations could find some ways to economize instead of continually whine about not getting their every Christmas wish from the taxpayers.

Our schools have been transformed from centers for transfer of productive knowledge to institutes of social intercourse and consumption sciences.

Before we accept the gripe about not being able to spend as much as last year, let's take a look at how wise the spending has been. Throwing more money at the problem doesn't seem to be the answer given what has been the spending habits of the public schools. Maybe a healthy budget cut will help academia to get back to the basics of why they exist in the first place.

Mark Steger said...

We found something that Nathan Morgan backs the Richardson City Council members on. You're welcome, council members.

Nathan Morgan said...

Uh, Mark, I didn't say anything about the City Council. But, seeing as how you brought it up (snidely), I will respond. The Council is likely sucking up to the Legislature for the influence benefit on their own agenda items. Whereas I am talking about common sense. Two completely different motivations.

Moreover, I recall a few years back when City Management lobbied the Legislature hard to prevent measures getting on the ballot that would constrain the growth of their spending to some formula tied to inflation and growth. It would seem in the case of education funding they are willing to stab the school board in the back. Funny thing, I didn't see the school promoting fiscal responsibility and budget cuts on the municipal side when the kids in Austin were about to put the hammer on City Hall. Think there might be some rivalry going on there?

And, don't forget. The schools have been rather, shall we say, standoffish about the Council's efforts to do Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Council have failed in their quest to get the schools to pony up to their economic development escapades. The kids at City Hall have occasionally made snide remarks about RISD & PISD in a begrudging sort of manner. Council could be just flexing their political muscle in hopes of trading influences over the two issues. That appears to be the way some deals are pressured in that circle.

Mark Steger said...

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
-- Queen Gertrude, Hamlet Act 3, scene 2

Nathan Morgan said...

Meanwhile, back in 21st century north Texas, Dallas schools employ 157,000 to process 20,000 students through the current education system. That's over a 7:1 ratio. Seven school employees for each student.

How can the taxpayer not question the wisdom there?

Save that twinkle in your eye for someone else, Queenie.

Mark Steger said...

Your math is off by a factor of about 50x. Not that I expect that to change your pontifications.

"I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a
king of infinite space"
-- Hamlet

Nathan Morgan said...

Where I went to school, they taught that 7 x 20,000 equals 140,000. Thus, 157,000:20,000 is over 7:1 ratio. Has something changed there, Archimedes? You might need a new battery in that TI calculator.

Math skills shouldn't roll around one's head like a BB in a matchbox. --Nathan

Nathan Morgan said...

But, to be honest, I misread the news and will correct myself before someone does it for me. The ratio in question is regarding non-teachers to teachers that stands at 3:1.

The math is still correct, I think. But the story is actually 20,000 employees to 157,000 students. Around two out of three of the employees are not teachers.

Apologies. nm

Mark Steger said...

Nathan: "But, to be honest, I misread the news and will correct myself before someone does it for me."

Too late.

Nathan: "The ratio in question is regarding non-teachers to teachers"

No, the ratio in question is school employees to students. You claimed 7 to 1. That ratio is off by over 50x.

Still, apologies accepted. And thanks for the inspiration for another blog post: the sad state of math education and how that prevents the public from making informed choices about public policy.

Nathan Morgan said...

You'll have to show your work if you want credit. I don't see how you come up with the "50x" error. Please enlighten me.

And, do us all a favor. Try not to revert back to an admitted error unrelated to math to make a point that is no longer valid.

I'll be most interested in seeing how you tie math education to politics. Considering manipulated definitions of the numbers in the mathematics of politics, this ought to be good.

Mark Steger said...

Nathan, there are over 157,000 students in DISD. You claimed a employee to student ratio of 7 to 1. That would require over a million people working for the DISD. That's about 50x too many.

Outrageously inaccurate factual errors like that influence public opinion towards public education, which in turns leads legislators to set unwise public policy.

Nathan Morgan said...

Are you saying 140,000:20,000 is not a 7:1 ratio? You may have misread my admitted misreading. My mistake was 157,000 employees and 20,000 students. The correction I made was 157,000 students and 20,000 employees. That reverses the ratio from 7:1 to 1:7, I think.

To be fair, I'm guessing you were trying to say 7 x 157,000 is over a million. But that's a different calculation from the one I originally put forth.

I guess this is an example of how definitions of numbers confuse the wisdom of public policy.

Mark Steger said...

Nathan: "That reverses the ratio from 7:1 to 1:7, I think."

Yes. And that's what makes your original claim, "Seven school employees for each student" off by 50x. Fifty times! Kind of like the difference between being a genius and being dumb as a rock. But that's the kind of thinking that's electing people like Stefani Carter who think Voter ID, sanctuary cities, and carrying guns on college campuses are the issues that voters care about and not the sad state of public school finance in the state of Texas.

Nathan Morgan said...

Mark, I'm glad you caught on to your error in the original reading. I almost started looking for the smartest rock in the box to make a comparison.

The point is not "the sad state of public school finance" so often considered a money shortage. It is the sad state of public schools for the ridiculous amount of money being spent on them.

I propose performance standards in place of schmoozing talent for the retention of school employees...and that goes for Board members.

I'm glad Stefani Carter is not a one string banjo being plunked by the fattest bully on the playground. Voter ID and sanctuary cities are two factors contributing to the demise of public schools.

I remember when apartments in Richardson were adult only. When the courts changed that, a flood of apartment kids started showing up in Richardson schools. Then, administrators couldn't ignore how much attendance money there was to be had and looked the other way when the wave of illegal immigrants and anchor kids showed up for class. City leaders refused to address the illegal immigration problem in Richardson. In many ways they encouraged it. Now, some people are blaming the problem with the schools on a lack of money. The schools are beginning to learn the lesson that there is a cost associated with sanctuary cities.

As it stands now, there are countless unknown immigrants illegally registered to vote. The evidence of this can be found in the arguments against Voter ID legislation. Most recently, the Justice Department held up enforcement because State election officials could not provide something as simple as the numbers of voters by ethnicity. ACORN had a field day in Texas and nobody knows how bad the voter registration rolls really are. Voter ID is a step in the right direction, but not as good as it could be.

Don't underestimate the willingness of people to ignore the consequences of voting themselves welfare.

Mark Steger said...

Nathan: "Mark, I'm glad you caught on to your error in the original reading."

Nathan, I didn't make an error. You are the one who said, "Seven school employees for each student." You were off by 50x.

To bring things back to the original post, even in this latest comment of yours, you are supporting Stefani Carter, just like five of the city council members. As I said, we found something that Nathan Morgan backs the Richardson City Council members on. You're welcome, council members.

And with that, I'm through.

Nathan Morgan said...

Mark, You read the formula wrong. My math is correct. I said there were 157,000 employees and 20,000 students. That is the 7:1 ratio I stated. There is nothing wrong with the math. What was wrong is that I state the numbers backward. Reversing the numbers reverses the ratio.

If I understand you correctly, I think you are trying to say that 7 x 157,000 is near a million. That is also a correct mathematical statement. But to say my math was off by a factor of 50 is not accurate, unless you change the definition of the values, which you didn't in your statement.

The Council might as well be backing me using that logic. My evaluation of Stefani Carter's performance has nothing to do with what anybody else happens to think. Any similarity between mine and the Council's is purely coincidental, as I am certain they would be glad to tell you the same. Nobody is "backing" anybody here. Stating your assumption as fact is misleading.

My statements pertain to school finance, not the Council's opinion or Stefani Carter's either.

Likewise, "not a one string banjo" is an awful thin excuse to call me out for "supporting Stefani Carter" like you are saying the Council does. That's quite a leap.