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New system rates Texas schools on finances, academic progress

State Comptroller Susan Combs unveiled a new financial rating of Texas schools today that grades districts on how well they spend money compared to student performance.

The new Financial Allocation Study for Texas, or FAST, report examines how schools are using their dollars and highlights "smart practices" districts are using to maximize their resources.

"If you are doing a bang-up job in academic improvement and low spending, you are the best of the best," said Combs, who unveiled the report at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Only 43 of the 1,235 districts and charter schools examined earned the top 5-star rating, including the Keller school district and local charter schools Arlington Classics Academy and the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts.The Fort Worth school district scored toward the end of the scale at 1.5 stars.

Combs urged districts to collaborate with each other or even other entities to copy or create smart practices that save money.

For example, she highlighted a new Cedar Hill school district building that is shared with the town’s police department, which saved both agencies significant dollars. San Angelo saves about $100,000 a year by buying fuel through a co-op.

The 2009 Legislature required the comptroller's office to develop a way to determine how well districts were spending money compared to how well their students performed.

Each campus and district were rated on how well students performed on math and reading tests from year to year, the amount of spending compared to peer districts of similar size and student makeup.

The report looked at spending levels from the 1998-99 school year to 2008-09.

It found that while student enrollment in public schools grew about 20 percent, per-pupil spending grew by 63 percent.

It also found that growth in school administrator positions outpaced the growth of teachers in that time.

For more information on districts and individual schools, visit the report's site at www.fastexas.org.

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