School boards gear up for tussle in Austin

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

"Our Schools, Our Voice" rally: 7 p.m. Feb. 7, Grapevine High School gym, 3223 Mustang Drive. Hosted by the Keller, Carroll and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts.

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Key Texas elected leaders keep talking about school choice as a concern.

Locally elected school boards want state leaders to choose to better fund public education and make other improvements.

Which priorities will win? That probably depends largely on which voters send the loudest, most persuasive message.

More than half the state's 1,000-plus school districts already are suing the state to force an overhaul of the funding formula that is outdated and contains inexplicable and unjustifiable discrepancies in money provided to similar districts. But the suits almost certainly won't force changes before the legislative session ends.

To make quicker headway, school boards are adopting legislative agendas and trying to rally parents, educators and other taxpayers behind them.

Seven North Texas districts, the largest of them Birdville, have partnered on a five-point platform that includes proper state funding, local control, effective accountability and no public money for private-school entitlements.

Fort Worth's is more extensive and aggressive.

It calls for at least returning to 2010-11 funding levels -- before the Legislature cut $5.4 billion for public education -- and says no to vouchers.

The document approved by the Fort Worth board last week also seeks more funding for pre-kindergarten classes, full funding for textbooks and an increase in the transportation allotment that last was adjusted in 1984. But Fort Worth trustees are even bolder, urging that lawmakers fully fund curriculum and testing changes before insisting that schools be held to new standards, increase the high school allotment from $275 per student to $500 and expand it to middle school, and rewrite the Education Code to reflect current state goals.

Radical change may be coming this session, but those who want it to mean better-funded and better-functioning public schools must convince lawmakers their constituents want it.

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