House Public Education Committee hears testimony on school finance and A-F grading system

At hearing this week, educators and stakeholders testified on challenges involved in carrying out both House Bill 22, enacted in 2017, and House Bill 3, the school finance bill enacted last spring.

One complication that has arisen out of implementing HB22 involves excessive ambiguity and complexity about when and how the Texas Education Agency will order campus interventions in the new A-F accountability system. Among other concerns, there are scenarios in which certain D/F campuses may be subject to sanctions in fewer years despite higher levels of overall performance and/or demonstrated improvement than other campuses. The committee agreed to table rulemaking on D/F with the goal of cleaning it up with revisions to the law during the 2021 session. There are 13 districts in the state for which this will matter next year, and TEA will work directly with these districts to help develop a campus improvement plan for this academic year.

HB22 allows for districts to submit locally developed assessment instruments enabling the measurement of success based on indicators valued in and determined by the community. Of the nineteen proposals submitted, only two (Dallas ISD and Snyder ISD) were accepted by TEA as “reliable, valid, and/or correctly calibrated.” There was a lot of legislative pushback regarding why so few districts were able to meet the TEA standard. Superintendents H.D. Chambers of Alief and Elizabeth Fagen of Humble surmised in testimony that if the locally developed instrument wasn’t based on some form of assessment then it would not be deemed acceptable.

The underlying theme of HB3 testimony was about the unintended consequences of the new school finance law. Although all speakers expressed gratitude for the legislative effort in getting the law passed, several issues have surfaced causing confusion for school districts in the following two broad categories:

Why do we have less money than expected?

  • CTE Allotment: There are some circumstances for very small school districts where additions in career and technology offerings will actually result in a loss of funds from the state.
  • Fast Growth Allotment: Because this allotment is currently measured at percentage growth rather than absolute growth, there are scenarios where districts with an increase in more than 1,000 students do not qualify, while other districts may qualify with a gain of just four or five students.
  • CCMR: Outcomes-based funding results in a misalignment between current needs and resources, and the lack of predictability can potentially destabilize programming
  • How do we reconcile a permanent spending obligation with a temporary source of funds?
  • Many districts are having anxiety about the sustainability of pay raises and are choosing to “lowball” raises until they receive final calculations from the state
  • Districts are struggling to source funds for mandated pre-K without compromising programming in K-2