News from Dr. Cruz: Legislative Priorities
The 85th Legislative Session is underway, and it is a good time for our Austin ISD team to stay informed as we renew our efforts at the state level on behalf of students, staff and taxpayers.
The board’s official priorities for the session focus on a few key issues.
First among those is updating the state’s school finance system. The current system, known as recapture, is based on formulas created in the 1980s.
As the single largest payer of recapture in Texas, AISD will send an estimated $406.1 million in taxpayer dollars to the state in the 2017 fiscal year. Since the 2002 fiscal year, Austin ISD has paid $2.1 billion to the state as part of the recapture system.
Those funds could be used to increase teacher pay, support and expand our already outstanding programs, and increase education opportunities for our students.
Next on the list is reforming the state's accountability system. AISD believes in school accountability; however, the most recent iteration of an A–F grading system still needs work. The ratings offer a limited view of our schools’ performance that isn’t holistic and doesn’t match the great work we know happens at every campus every day.
Finally, we want to work with lawmakers to support campus-based mental health services. Our mental health and behavioral counselors have seen firsthand how these services help students at all levels do better academically.
The district’s Intergovernmental Relations and Policy Oversight staff is tracking nearly 400 bills related to these priorities. That list will continue to grow as lawmakers file new bills through March 10, and we will continue to collaborate to make changes and do what’s best for all students.
We appreciate and recognize the hard work happening at our schools, and we’ll continue to represent that good work at the state level.
Paul Cruz, Ph.D.