Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller school districts to hold forum on finances

SOUTHLAKE -- Their students may be sports rivals, but adults from three neighboring school districts are coming together on Tuesday for a discussion about their fiscal health.

The Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville and Keller school districts are presenting a forum to explain the intricacies of Texas school finance and discuss how they can improve their financial picture. Taxpayers, parents, business leaders and educators are invited.

The districts aim to present a united message that Texas legislators should make education a priority during the upcoming session. Though the state faces a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, Texas children should not get shortchanged, trustees said. "It is critical there are no cuts made to education," said Carroll Trustee Sue Armstrong. "Schools are not being properly funded."

Each district has its own funding issues, but all expect to make cuts for fiscal 2012 as rising costs outpace funding. Like more than half of Texas school districts, the Northeast Tarrant districts dipped into savings to offset budget shortfalls this year.

"The current school finance system has tied our hands to the point that we cannot continue to operate without making deep sacrifices," said Charlie Warner, Grapevine-Colleyville school board president. "School districts cannot continue to bandage their budgets year after year without eventually being forced to cut teachers, courses and programs currently offered to our students."

School board members and administrators have been meeting in recent months with civic and parent groups and legislators. Each district has adopted a legislative platform outlining priorities for the 82nd legislative session, which begins Jan. 11.

"We want our Legislature to know the school districts of Texas are all in the same position and are coming together with one voice. Something in the funding formula and the way we do school funding has to change," said Cindy Lotton, Keller school board president. "We're just trying to educate the community and send a call out to the Legislature that we need help."

At Tuesday's forum, superintendents, finance directors and trustees from each district will join in a 45-minute presentation about how school funding works and its impact locally. Then, the audience will break into district-specific groups to question administrators. Fact sheets, contact information for legislators and sample letters will be provided.

Legislators who represent the area, including Sens. Wendy Davis and Jane Nelson and Rep. Vicki Truitt have been invited to attend or send representatives.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326