S-TISD joins the fight for equality
by Jason Collins
Oct 13, 2011 | 799 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SKIDMORE–Skidmore-Tynan school trustees Monday unanimously approved joining the fight alongside Pettus and other districts that they hope will equalize school funding.

“I think it is unfortunate that school districts have to go this route to receive adequacy and equity in our school finance system,” said Dr. Brett Belmarez, S-T superintendent said following their Monday evening board meeting.

“Skidmore-Tynan, because we are so unfunded and so financially stretched, we are participating in name only.

“All of our anticipated funds in our budget are already spent.”

Earlier, Pettus ISD trustees also agreed to join the legal battle.

“It is just the desire to have everyone treated equitably,” Pettus Superintendent Tucker Rackley said previously.

Funding for a school district is based on the weighted average daily attendance. This is a calculation that takes into account a district’s average daily attendance along with other criteria such as whether students are considered special need.

The lawsuit, spearheaded by the Equity Center, would have gone through with or without either Pettus’ or Skidmore-Tynan’s joining.

“We did want to pledge our name and our support,” Belmarez said. “ is undisputable that our elected state leadership has refused to provide what students need in our school district.”

Despite this minimal funding, $4,700 per weighted average daily attendance, the district has been able to maintain an exemplary status the past three years and for five years on the elementary campus.

“I don’t how with the limited resources,” he said. “That speaks volumes about our kids, staff and community.

“We don’t use being underfunded as an excuse.

“We do what we do and it ends up being pretty sound.”

Belmarez declined to speak to what he would consider an ideal funding amount for the district.

“I have superintendent friends who are sitting there receiving over $10,000 per weighted student — so 2 1/2 times what we bring in currently,” he said.

“Anything that is an increase to what we have is appreciated. Equity in the entire system is what we are after — not a specific number.

“It is really unthinkable that this level of disparity is existing in our state.”

This week, the lawsuit was filed against the state in Travis County district court.

In its suit, the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition claims the state’s public school finance system is unconstitutional because it doesn’t treat taxpayers and school children fairly.

Lead counsel Rick Gray of Gray & Becker, P.C. emphasized, “This lawsuit comes at a crucial time in the history of public education in Texas. School districts, taxpayers and students are being treated unfairly by our current system, and it’s time to stand up and fight. Our case is strong and comprehensive, and we’ll attack the system from all angles. I’m confident that we will succeed and that Texas taxpayers and students will benefit from our efforts.”

The group of more than 150 school districts represented by the coalition continues to grow daily, and many more districts, taxpayers, parents and even business owners are expected to formally join in the coming months.

“We applaud all the districts, taxpayers and parents who have decided to stand up for Texas children and the future of our state,” said Dr. Wayne Pierce, executive director of the Equity Center, the organization that is facilitating the development and operation of the coalition. “It is never easy to take on the system, but the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition recognizes that we simply can’t wait.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at
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