WHAT ROLE DOES THE CONSORTIUM PLAY IN TEXAS PHILANTHROPY AND EDUCATION POLICY?
The Consortium bridges the gap between pragmatic advocates and impact-oriented foundations to support advocacy to protect and improve public education in Texas.
WHO IS INVOLVED IN THE CONSORTIUM?
The Consortium’s members include 49 family, corporate, community, and private foundations from across Texas. To our knowledge, the Consortium represents the largest foundation policy collaborative anywhere in the country.
WHAT DOES THE CONSORTIUM DO? HOW ARE ACTIVITIES PAID FOR?
The Consortium is a campaign, not a new nonprofit. Membership dues of $5,000 per year plus optional research and advocacy grants support the Consortium’s work.
The Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (“TEGAC” or the “Consortium”) is a funders’ collaborative that was created in 2012 to unify grantmakers around a multi-year effort to build support for and improvement in public education in Texas in response to the historic cuts made to public education by the Texas legislature during the 2011 session. Foundations are directly impacted by these cuts and are responding with a united and respectful voice of concern.
The Consortium’s work is changing public education policy in Texas and, maybe even more importantly, changing how philanthropy more broadly approaches public policy. Now is the moment for education grantmakers to make their voices and concerns heard. Policymakers want to hear from philanthropy – particularly from the benefactors and trustees of foundations. Foundation leaders working to make grants in the field of public education should consider themselves to be a resource for Texas policymakers. It is our responsibility as experts in understanding what works in the field of public education to speak up as advocates and thought leaders in the public education space.
Our mission is to empower Texas philanthropy to invest and engage in effective public education policy and advocacy at the state level.
The Consortium’s vision is to protect, promote, and improve public education in Texas so that all Texas students can achieve their educational goals from cradle to career.
By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD Staff Writer
Pay now or pay later.
That message rang loud and clear yesterday during a meeting of educators, business leaders and city officials who gathered to discuss public school finance reform.
“ We have a state that’s increasingly poor,” said Sagar Desai, managing director of operations at Commit Partnership, a group pushing for school finance reform.
“ Three out of five kids enrolled in public education are lower income,” he said. “We do a good job serving our kids with the dollars that we have but we are a state that ranks 43rd in the nation in public education.”
He also pointed out that Texas also ranks 28th in student achievement outcomes, but still more money is needed to address the needs of children in the lower grades.
The event was held to discuss school finance reform that will be addressed by the upcoming legislative session. It was organized by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium in partnership with
the Harlingen Chamber of Commerce and RGV Partnership.
Jennifer Esterline, executive director of the consortium, said she and other educators want Texans to understand that as the state spends less on education, local governments must fill in the gap
“ We’re giving people an understanding of what the problems are so that we can find solutions,” she said
Texas has a large number of children from low income households. Children in such circumstances need access to more resources for their education, and those extra resources cost money.
Chandra Villanueva, economic opportunity team program director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, pointed out that Texas is spending more money than ever on public education in dollar figures. However, when you take into account inflation, population growth and changing demographics, funding has remained flat.
“ It was around 2000 or 2001 that we started to have more economically disadvantaged students than non-economically disadvantaged,” Villanueva said. “We’re not keeping up with the fact that some campuses have high concentrations of low income kids.”
She observed that, yes, Texas provides 20 percent additional funding for each low income child. However, funding five low income students is something rather different than funding a district with 80 percent of the students from low income households.
“ It just compounds the needs of resources so we don’t have a way that really adjusts or accounts for concentrations of poverty in some of our campuses and districts across the state,” she said.
She said her organization’s analysis of the situation shows that in many of the lowest income elementary schools the district is spending 40 percent less on bilingual education today than in 2008.
“ Bilingual education is an early education issue,” she said. “If we’re not getting kids proficient in English in elementary school they are going to struggle in middle school and probably drop out of high school.”
Harlingen School Superintendent Art Cavazos appreciated the presentation.
“ It was an excellent presentation kind of summarizing school finance and the challenges that are ahead,” Cavazos said. “It showed the importance of properly funding school systems that should be priority number one in this legislative session.”
He also pointed out the need to address the needs of low-income kids in the early grades.
“ If we invest now especially in early childhood then you begin to close that achievement gap,” he said. “You ensure that students are workforce ready.”
Another meeting was held later yesterday in Mission.
SURVEY ALSO SHOWS DISTRICTS WANT STATE TO OFFER FULL-DAY PRE-K IF STATE PROVIDES THE FUNDING
For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org 512-473-2274
AUSTIN – A new report shows that Texas school districts are facing difficulties after Texas lawmakers cut pre-k funding during the 2017 legislative session while simultaneously adding new pre-k requirements for school districts. The report by Texans Care for Children and the Commit Partnership also shows that school districts are eager to offer full-day pre-k, rather than half-day pre-k, if the state provides adequate funding for it.
“Strong pre-k programs are so important for making sure that kids show up to kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed instead of starting off behind their classmates on day one and struggling to catch up,” said David Feigen, Early Childhood Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children. “As legislators work on school finance next year, we are hopeful that they will make full-day pre-k a priority.”
“We understand our state legislators have a lot on their plates this upcoming session,” added Kim Manns, Managing Director of Early Matters Dallas at the Commit Partnership. “We would argue there is no more worthy investment than the one the state makes in Texas’ earliest learners – prioritizing high-quality, full-day pre-k is an excellent way to ensure our children have access to a firm foundation.”
The report is based on an online survey of school districts conducted by the two organizations in the summer of 2018. Survey participants represent a meaningful cross-section of Texas school districts. In total, 95 school districts educating 38 percent of the state’s pre-k students responded to the survey.
IMPACT OF LEGISLATURE’S 2017 DECISIONS
The survey asked districts about the impact of decisions made by the Texas Legislature in 2017. That year the Legislature eliminated funding for the High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program that they had established in 2015 based on Governor Greg Abbott’s proposal. In addition to eliminating $118 million in annual funding for the new grant program, the Legislature also eliminated $30 million in supplemental pre-k funding and passed Rider 78 to require all school districts to use a portion of their pre-k funding to comply with the standards that were previously applied only to those districts that participated in the High-Quality Pre-k Grant Program.
The report shows that the Legislature’s decisions on pre-k during the 2017 legislative session harmed Texas students. Sixty-two percent of surveyed districts said the loss of the pre-k funding negatively impacted their pre-k programs at least “a moderate amount” while 38 percent said the cuts had “a lot” or “a great deal” of impact on their pre-k programs. Districts reported that the cuts affected pre-k in numerous ways, including classroom materials, instructional coaching, staff compensation, and recruitment efforts and also affected grade levels and district programs outside of early education. Additionally, school districts reported that the Rider 78 requirements were confusing and difficult to implement, particularly because the Legislature imposed the requirements at the same time that it eliminated funding.
DISTRICTS PRIORITIZING FULL-DAY PRE-K
The report also showed that full-day pre-k is a top priority for school districts. The state currently provides funding for voluntary half-day pre-k for four-year-olds who are low-income, learning English, or meet other criteria. Some school districts use other funds to offer a six-hour full-day program rather than a three-hour half-day program. Full-day programs are more effective at preparing children for kindergarten. Because half-day programs often conflict with parents’ work schedules, full-day programs also provide an opportunity for more eligible students to enroll. The State Board of Education recently called on the Legislature to fund full-day pre-k for interested districts through the school funding formulas.
When asked what they would prioritize if districts received additional pre-k funding from the state, the majority of respondents (58 percent) say they would use that funding to pay for full-day pre-k. A smaller number of districts indicated they would prioritize lower student-teacher ratios, instructional coaching, professional developments, or other investments. When asked if they would provide full-day pre-k if state funding were available, 79 percent of districts with only half-day programs said they would start to offer full-day pre-k. Twenty-one percent were unsure. Zero districts said they would continue with only half-day pre-k if the state funded full-day pre-k.
“School districts see the value in full-day pre-k firsthand when those students go on to achieve academic success in later years. The Legislature should support districts’ commitments to these students by properly resourcing a full-day pre-k option,” Ms. Manns said.
“Districts across Texas affirmed that the Legislature should invest in full-day pre-k to ensure young students benefit from effective early learning environments and are on track for lifetime success,” said Mr. Feigen.
TEGAC released its 2019 Policy Priorities. You can read them here.
AMARILLO, Texas (KVII) — Amarillo Area Foundation and the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce hosted an event Wednesday to address the issue of funding in public schools.
Business leaders from all over were in attendance to support public schools.
Amarillo Area Foundation President Clay Stribling tells ABC 7 News today's meeting was really about the role of business in public school funding and why it important to our economy.
"If we can't make our public schools successful, we can't fund them in a way that gives them the opportunity to succeed, then post secondary is not really in the picture because we got to get kids out of high school prepared to succeed in college," said Stribling.
Stribling says they want to show local business leaders what the debate at the State Capitol over school finance will look like, and prompt them to get directly involved in the process.
"It's all about becoming educated on the local level so that you know. What do I need to tell my local representatives, what are my priorities, how do I feel about this and what are the solutions that we think can work for our community that are maybe different from Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio," said Stribling.
State Representative Four Price spoke about enhancing the resources available to schools.
"At a state level we look to better distribute the resources across the state that they can be utilized to the highest and best use and most efficient use here at a local level," said Price.
Leaders are hoping with the knowledge provided today, this can be a start for change.
Hundreds of business, education and community leaders met on Halloween to discuss a frightening topic: public school finance in Texas.
“This may have been the scariest Halloween you’ve ever had,” said Sagar Desai, managing director of operations at Dallas-based Commit Partnership, a coalition working to improve education in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
A decadelong decline in state spending per student has shifted more of the bulk of public school funding onto the shoulders of local property taxpayers, and the rate of graduates going on to earn post-secondary degrees or certifications is falling short of the job market’s demand for skilled workers in the state, according to presenters at the Waco Regional School Finance Convening hosted by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium and members of the McLennan County Chamber Alliance.
“As long as the state keeps declining their share (of public education funding) it’s inevitable that your property taxes will continue to climb, because the cost to run these schools certainly isn’t going down,” said Jimmie Don Aycock, a former chair of the Texas House Public Education Committee.
Waco was one of several stops on a public education tour Aycock is making before the 86th Texas Legislature convenes in January.
In the face of a growing student population, changing student demographics and increasing school district responsibilities, state lawmakers continually vote to decrease funding for public schools, he said.
“Is it cheaper to educate people or keep people on social welfare forever? … Texas cannot fail to educate children,” Aycock said. “We must step up to this task. To do that it will take additional resources.”
State public education funding has decreased $1,110 per student in the past decade, when adjusted for inflation, said Missy Bender, Founder of Taxparency Texas and president of the Plano ISD school board.
If that decline in state funding continues, McLennan County property taxes are likely to increase by $20 million in the coming years to make up for it, said Rick Tullis, CEO of Capstone Mechanical and a Midway ISD board member.
Dressed as Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code, otherwise known as the Robin Hood Law, Chandra Villanueva, Economic Opportunity Team Program Director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, presented a breakdown of the lasting effects of a $5 billion cut to public education the state made in 2011.
“We see that every district, every campus, every student across the state was impacted by the cuts in 2011, and we have not made that funding up yet,” Villanueva said.
Campuses with the highest number of low-income students saw the biggest cuts in their spending after the move in 2011, according to a report by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium.
Looking at per-campus spending, Villanueva found that students in accelerated and bilingual education programs saw the greatest cuts in spending.
“We’re not saying that campuses are doing the wrong thing or making the wrong choices, but when you lose an entire funding stream to help the kids most at need and nobody is making it up, those kids are going to suffer because there’s nowhere else for districts to go,” she said.
Public education funding is not only a moral issue, but an economic issue, Desai said.
In two years, 60 percent of jobs in Texas will require a 4-year degree, 2-year degree or vocational certificate, but fewer than 30 percent of public school students are completing a degree within six years of graduation, he said.
“We have about 300,000 unfilled jobs and half a million unemployed Texans, which means that businesses are paying more to attract, recruit and retain talent,” he said.
Bender said the state public funding system is out of balance, and in order to fix it, education advocates need help from members of the business community.
“We need your support to provide the pressure to fix and address this problem,” she said.
School Finance Event To Address Challenges of Public School Funding, Rivard Report
Commentary: How Finance Commission can create parity in Texas schools, Austin American Statesman
Every morning, I start the school day by watching the news with my students, so we can both keep up with current events and understand how these relate to our own lives.
For the past few weeks, the news media has been covering the stories of the educators from Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Arizona who are protesting for a livable wage within their state. While watching, one of my students turned to me and asked, “Mr. Piña, why are the teachers walking out of their schools? Don’t you guys get paid a lot of money?” I told him that although teachers in Texas earn more than teachers in Oklahoma, the amount of money that we make isn’t that much, especially since so many teachers use part of their salaries to fund things for their classrooms.
Over the years, I’ve often gone out to buy materials for my students. As a bilingual education teacher, I frequently find myself buying books in my students’ native language. These books, which my school doesn’t provide, are essential for my students to have if they’re to apply good literacy skills in their daily lives.
In 2016, teachers nationally spent an average of $530 on their classroom, according to a survey by Scholastic. Teachers within a low socioeconomic status area spent an average of $672. For Texas, a teacher-led survey found that Texas teachers spent $700 a year on average on their classrooms. What teachers spend their own money on can range from school supplies to books to sponsoring students who can’t afford to go on field trips. Doing this throughout the year starts to add up — and many teachers, myself included, must find creative ways to earn income — like tutoring or driving an Uber before and after school to supplement our pay to continue funding activities for our kids and afford our cost of living.
These issues impact both teachers and students. Teaching is a process that requires patience, energy, passion and a constant focus on engaging students in their learning. When I am not feeling 100 percent, it affects my ability to teach. This, in turn, affects my students’ ability to learn. When teachers spend time working other jobs, it detracts from the time we can use to plan a more extensive and efficient lesson.
We now have an opportunity to do something about it: This year, the School Finance Commission will establish recommendations for the next legislative session. As a teacher, I see several things the commission should focus on:
• First, the commission should address the state’s so-called “Robin Hood” program in which districts that have high property wealth are required to pay money to the state — which is called “recapture.” This money is then redistributed among other districts within the state. Originally, this program was designed to create equity between property-rich and property-poor districts — but with time, it has largely impacted cities such as Austin, Dallas, and Houston. Austin Independent School District, for example, is projected to send over $500 million of its property tax revenue to the state. This, along with many other factors, puts a strain on our district, which trickles down to a strain on teachers and students. Moving forward, we need to address this program in a way that is equitable to ensure every district has the resources needed to help their students succeed.
• Second, the commission should examine how we allocate funds to districts, and rewrite the formula for teacher-to-student ratios. Currently, the number of teachers allocated to a specific grade level is based on the number of students who are enrolled in that grade. Students in fourth grade though kindergarten are capped at 22 students in a class. This changes drastically once students enter fifth grade, when the cap is raised to 32 students per class. Additionally, schools that operate specialty programs, such as dual-language instruction, often end up with mixed classes — classes with students in the dual-language program, and students who are not, which affects the integrity of their programs.
• Finally, we need to focus on special education and high-poverty students. These children are usually our highest-need students, which means that teachers need the proper professional development to help them succeed. We should focus our dollars on high-quality, research-based training for teachers to fully equip them with the tools needed to lower the achievement gap. As a state, we need to add additional dollars to enhance these programs rather than take away from some of our most vulnerable students.
I urge the commission to find ways to put money back into education — and to support our teachers and students. Find a way to ensure that teachers can focus all their time on their classroom, so that we can truly give our students the quality of education that they deserve. Then, perhaps, my students will cheer as they watch the news.
Piña teaches fifth-grade at Perez Elementary School. He is a Teach Plus Texas Teaching Policy Fellow.
Commentary: Why money matters in public education
By Wynn Rosser - Special to the American-Statesman
Texas, like much of the country, is struggling with funding for public education. Some state leaders point out that Texas is putting in more money than ever before. So, what’s the problem? Texas’ funding per student is still below 2008 levels despite the fact that we’re demanding more from our schools. This is especially true in funding levels for small and rural districts, special education services, services for English-language learners, and career and technical education.
The Texas Legislature used to fund a greater share of the cost of public education. And then there were cuts, a painful choice the Legislature made back in 2011 — from which we’ve not fully recovered. The result has been a shift toward local taxpayers shouldering a greater amount of the cost.
It was not so long ago that the state provided about 50 percent of the funding for public schools, but now that percentage has dropped to 38 percent. As the state’s per student amount has stagnated, local taxpayers have been left to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden. It’s time for the state to step up and increase funding for public education.
Higher state investment in our schools would mean lower property taxes — and that is something Texas voters agree on.
As the School Finance Commission — with members appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Joe Straus, and the State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich — continues its work, there’s already some worry that the outcome is predetermined: Public schools should do more with less.
That’s a position that runs counter to many of the commission members’ own viewpoints — and, as a new statewide voter survey shows, is out of step with the Texas electorate.
The proponents of a “lean and mean” approach to public school funding say the focus should be on “efficiency” and the “quality” of education, rather than the quantity of funding directed to our public schools by the state.
The problem with that is studies from across the ideological spectrum have shown that the quality of education delivered is, in fact, directly related to the quantity of resources a district has. That news grabbed headlines most recently in another state, when Texas A&M’s Dr. Lori Taylor told Kansas lawmakers that a link does exist between spending and a student’s educational attainment.
Money matters in public education — and that money should be well-spent.
We know that well-funded, high-quality public schools shape our future, ensuring a well-trained, highly skilled workforce and better quality of life for Texans. And, Texas voters seem to agree with a bipartisan majority voicing support for increasing state funding of Texas public schools.
More local taxpayers are beginning to understand that real property-tax relief is only possible when the state increases its share of public school funding. Seventy-one percent of Texans favor increasing the state’s share of funding to provide property tax relief, according to results from a statewide voter poll by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium.
The same survey found 86 percent of Texans — after learning that local education tax dollars sent to the state aren’t always used for public education — favor a requirement that education tax dollars be used for education.
Whether it’s our ability to attract new businesses, prepare the workforce of tomorrow, or bring jobs to our communities, there is vital importance in addressing school finance. We all have skin in the game, whether you have children, own or rent your home, pay property or business franchise taxes, all of the above, or none of the above.
Texas’ school finance system is complicated. It’s antiquated. It’s going to take political courage to fix, but Texas voters are making their opinions clear. The time to act is now.
Rosser chairs the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium.
STARTING OFF STRONG: PRE-K POLICY OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE 2019 LEGISLATURE
9:00 – 10:30 am
Thursday, January 24th, 2019
The Capitol Grill at the Texas Capitol
1100 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX, 78701
Breakfast tacos, juice, and coffee will be served. Please RSVP to Katie Mitten at email@example.com.
TEGAC grantee Teach Plus will hold a legislative briefing outlining its research and policy recommendations on teacher preparation in Texas.
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Members Lounge in the Capitol (E2.1002).
TEGAC looks forward to seeing you at our 2019 TEGAC Policy Symposium and Advocacy Day at the Capitol. More details to come as February 26 & 27 approach.
Tuesday Feb 26 12pm - Wed Feb 27, 2019 5pm