• Plano ISD Additional Legislative Position Statements for the Special Session

    The Governor of Texas has identified 20 priority statements that he would like to see addressed during a 30-day special session that he has called to start on July 18, 2017. In addition to the position statements adopted by the Plano ISD Board of Trustees in advance of the regular session, the Legislative Subcommittee submits the following position statements for the Board’s consideration. These statements are specific to the education-related priorities as defined by the Governor.

    Governor Priority #2: Teacher pay increase of $1000

    We are grateful that the Governor cares about teachers as much as we do. That is why on our May 16th agenda this Board approved a $1642 pay raise for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and added $240 per year to its health insurance contribution for each participating employee.

    Rather than creating another unfunded mandate, we encourage the Governor and Legislature to use the local property taxes collected by schools for the purpose of public education in education rather than using property tax value increases to reduce the state’s contribution to education so that it can meet other state obligations.

    Governor Priority #3: Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices

    Plano ISD supports the administrative flexibility offered in the District of Innovation plan that the Board adopted earlier in 2017. This flexibility allows for the hiring of certified teachers in all content areas with the exception of career and technology education classes.

    Governor Priority #4: School finance reform commission

    Plano ISD supports the concept of a School Finance Reform Commission as long as the enabling legislation clearly defines the work of the commission to be exclusively related to the financing of public school districts and public charter schools.

    Absent that provision, the School Finance Reform Commission could easily become a “Trojan Horse” effort to divert public tax dollars to private and for profit institutions. This would be done to the detriment of public schools which are accountable to the taxpayers who provide those tax dollars. 6

    Governor Priority #5: School choice for special needs students

    In the upcoming legislative special session, Governor Abbott has identified school choice for special needs students as a priority agenda item. Whether identified as school choice, tax credits, vouchers, or in the case of the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 21, education savings accounts, the end result is the same – a system in which public education funding is diverted to individuals to subsidize private education.

    Voucher and similar government subsidy programs have been proposed in the Senate in each of the last two legislative sessions, and in each session, rejected in the House. The Plano ISD Board of Trustees has historically opposed such programs and continues to do so now.

    In addition to this general opposition, however, the Plano ISD Board of Trustees specifically opposes the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 21 and the education savings accounts generated thereby. The language in the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 21 poses a number of issues, while failing to address a number of others.

    As an example of language which creates an issue, as proposed by the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 21, a private school accepting education saving accounts funds may not be required to modify the school’s practices, admissions policies, performance standards or assessments. This allows private schools (a) to accept public funds while discriminating in its admissions policies by rejecting students with certain disabilities, and (b) to operate without compliance to state assessment or accountability measures. The state’s public schools cannot discriminate in admissions and must comply with numerous assessment and accountability measures, and the Plano ISD Board of Trustees asserts such requirements should apply equally to any school accepting education saving accounts funds.

    As an example of issues which are not addressed, parents of special education students have raised concerns that the amounts available under the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 21 will not cover the entire cost of private school education, which is especially significant for those students with severe disabilities, where costs are exceptionally high. This could result in only those parents with the financial ability to cover any remaining cost utilizing this program, while prohibiting many others. We question whether the Legislature intends to create a program that will not benefit all students equally.

    The Plano ISD Board of Trustees applauds Governor Abbott’s attempts to address special education but believes education savings accounts – or tax credits, vouchers or any other form of government subsidy – is not the appropriate answer.

    Governor Priority #6: Property tax reform

    Plano ISD recognizes the only way to obtain meaningful property tax relief for Texas taxpayers while adequately funding public education is to completely reform the outdated system of school finance. In the interim, as we await a complete overhaul of the school finance system, Plano ISD supports the following reforms included in the original HB 21 (prior to Senate amendments) relating to funding for public school districts:

    • Increase the basic allotment per student each year of the biennium, relative to the rates of inflation and population growth, to provide an equitable funding increase to benefit all public school districts in Texas.
    • Reduce recapture payments. Equalized property wealth measures (property value per WADA, or weighted average daily attendance) beyond the first six pennies of Tier 2 enrichment funding do not correlate to the growth rate in actual property values. This divergence in values creates large increases in recapture liability for districts with a robust economy, which is a disincentive for economic development and success. We support automatic adjustment of equalized property wealth values relative to the rates of inflation and population growth to more equitably assess recapture liabilities.
    • Simplify and update transportation funding per student.
    • Add weight per student in funding calculations for students with dyslexia, bilingual students, and CTE students.

    Property tax reform should result in property tax relief. In order to assure that public independent school districts have greater ability and incentive to provide local property tax relief, Plano ISD supports providing public school districts the flexibility to lower the M&O (maintenance and operations) tax rate with the option, in a future year, to return to the M&O tax rate previously ratified by voters, as necessary to fund operations, without conducting an additional election.

    In the Texas 85th Regular Legislative Session, HB 390 (Howard), HB 486 (Van Deaver), and SB 1267 (L. Taylor) would have provided the desired flexibility for public school districts to offer local property tax relief. For example, in 2016-2017, Plano ISD could have lowered its previously voter-authorized tax rate of $1.17 per $100 valuation by $.038. That would have saved our local taxpayers $17.5 million or approximately $113 for the average homeowner. However, because the District’s recapture payment to the State is scheduled to grow by a staggering $46 million in the following year (2017-2018), the District was unwilling to take the risk of not being able to return to the previously voted rate of $1.17 in the following year if needed to maintain revenue to operate without cutting programs and services. Although the District desires to provide meaningful tax relief to local taxpayers, even if only on a temporary basis, the current law does not provide the ability to do so.

    Governor Priority #13: Privacy

    In the upcoming legislative special session called by Governor Abbott, he has named the Bathroom Bill, also referred to as the “Privacy” bill, as one of the top legislative goals once lawmakers reconvene at the Capitol. The governor has indicated he prefers the language of a particular bill from the regular session known as House Bill 2899.

    The language of House Bill 2899 does not target transgender people specifically, but instead prohibits local regulation by entities such as cities, counties, and school boards. Due to the broad language of House Bill 2899, it is possible the bill will have implications beyond bathroom regulation in public facilities.

    The Plano ISD Board of Trustees asserts their need for local control in this matter without having a method dictated by the state as law. Language found in all unsuccessful bills that were filed during the regular session limited school districts’ control on this matter and were found by Plano ISD and district officials to be an overreach by legislators.

    Variations on other bathroom bills resemble Senate Bill 6, which addressed transgender bathroom use directly, and would require schools to limit the use of multi-occupancy bathrooms for use only on the basis of biological sex. However, the bill would also allow schools to provide accommodations for students who do not identify with their biological sex by allowing these students to use a single-occupancy bathroom or changing facility upon request. If a Bathroom Bill passes, school districts and municipalities will likely lose autonomy in determining how to handle transgender bathroom issues, and instead will be required to defer to state law. In the realm of a reasonable approach, Plano ISD urges the legislature to allow local control of this issue as they continue to make collective and individualized plans according to student needs. Such bills serve in the erosion of local control of school districts who know best the students and the community.