Near half the constituents in Texas House District 121 have youngsters beneath the age of 18, so schooling is all the time an necessary problem to voters dwelling in the North Aspect district. When the state legislature gathers in Austin come January, schooling can be entrance and middle, with points like constitution faculty enlargement, faculty security, public faculty finance, and accountability on lawmakers’ minds.
The 2 candidates vying to exchange retiring state Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) are touting their expertise in schooling and in serving mother and father and college students in HD 121.
Republican candidate Steve Allison is a former Alamo Heights Unbiased Faculty District board president and Texas Affiliation of Faculty Boards board member. Celina Montoya, his Democratic opponent, began Literacy San Antonio, an schooling nonprofit targeted on enhancing the town’s literacy charges.
Each share widespread viewpoints on wanted reforms to the state’s faculty finance system and faculty accountability system. Nevertheless, their views on methods to obtain these reforms differ.
House District 121 consists of elements of 4 faculty districts, with giant parts of Alamo Heights and North East ISDs, each of that are thought-about “property rich” districts the place property house owners face rising property taxes. Alamo Heights ISD has lengthy been a district that sends property tax income to the state to be re-distributed to poorer districts, also referred to as a “recapture” district. North East ISD is projected to turn into a recapture district in the approaching years.
Allison first discovered concerning the faculty finance system when Alamo Heights started sending funds to the state, and he hung out in Austin on a legislative committee advocating for AHISD’s pursuits.
He sees the difficulty of reforming the general public faculty finance system as intently linked with the issue of rising property taxes.
“Historically, the state used to fund 100 percent of education and that has quickly went down,” Allison stated. “That burden just has to shift back. If we can shift it back to the state where it belongs, we can get property tax relief immediately.”
The funding method, which dedicates sure dollars for such constituencies as dyslexic college students or college students receiving particular schooling providers, is dated, Allison stated, and must be up to date with present prices. The updates might dedicate extra assets to new priorities akin to English-language learners or particular schooling college students. Allison opposes the addition or elevating of any taxes and as an alternative suggests the state foot the invoice for a bigger share of public schooling by means of price range changes or reallocations.
“If we can find a new independent revenue source that is not a tax, yeah, great,” Allison stated. “But I don’t think we are finding one. And the last thing we need, and I think the last thing the citizens of our district and the state want, is more taxes.”
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Montoya, who attended Alamo Heights ISD faculties and has two college students at present enrolled in the district, feels the issues with the present faculty finance scheme are vital. She describes it as a “defunding of public schools” and sees the state as shirking its duty to fund a public schooling for all college students.
Some district superintendents have proposed introducing new income fairly than utilizing basic fund cash. Montoya stated it might be value wanting into how one can use income from the franchise tax and oil and fuel tax to fund schooling.
Texas doesn’t have a state revenue tax, and Montoya stated instituting one isn’t one thing the state would possible be “ready to entertain.” As an alternative, she stated lawmakers ought to look to a number of billion dollars in discretionary funding that exists every finances yr.
“This small percentage of a large [overall budget] is available to be used for whatever priorities our representatives have,” Montoya stated. “Education is not the priority and [discretionary funds are] not being used for it.”
Whereas Allison feels optimistic concerning the timing being proper for significant change to high school finance when the Legislature convenes subsequent yr, Montoya believes any enhancements handed relies upon largely on who’s elected.
“If our voters choose to have individuals who put their priorities ahead of the constituents, we will be lucky to see small movements,” Montoya stated. “We will be lucky if we see anything beyond the distractions of things like another bathroom bill.”
Lawmakers possible will broach the subject of funding in conjunction with discussions about faculty security. Within the wake of faculty shootings in Texas and nationwide, state leaders comparable to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have targeted on modifications to amenities to enhance safety.
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Allison is supportive of placing extra money towards bodily protections, together with allocating larger funds to packages like the varsity marshal program that permits campus employees to be armed, or precise constructing enhancements at entrances and exits. He additionally believes that faculties ought to look to what he calls “character education” to create a “wellness atmosphere.”
“If we look at every single one of the school shootings, if we look at the conduct of the shooters, or the Sutherland Springs shooting, there was either a definite mental health problem or a discipline problem that could have been identified way back,” Allison stated.
He added that it is very important add in larger help for counseling so faculties don’t need to rely solely on present counselors which are burdened with educational and school preparation duties.
Montoya would use further state funding to shore up non-physical assets.
“There are mechanisms in place that could absolutely prevent [school shootings] and I’m not talking about arming teachers or giving every child a metal place in their backpack,” Montoya stated.
She additionally recommended that enhancing the varsity finance mechanism and boosting general funding might enhance the basic local weather of faculties. The state ought to allocate funds to have a counselor, nurse, and librarian on every campus, she stated.
Each candidates oppose using vouchers to offer faculty selection outdoors the general public faculty system.
And each Montoya and Allison agree on the state’s letter grade accountability system, saying faculty high quality is just too complicated to be decreased to a single letter grade. The Texas Education Company launched preliminary scores in August, assigning a letter grade of A-F to high school districts based mostly on a quantity grade of Zero-100. Campuses acquired a quantity grade that may ultimately correlate to a letter.
Montoya described the grading system as “oversimplified” and closely reliant on standardized testing. Whereas quantitative elements are already properly included, Montoya want to see extra qualitative elements of particular person faculties and districts built-in into the score system.
Allison, too, expressed considerations about letter grades, and stated he thinks a numerical grading system could possibly be extra productive.
On the subject of charters, each candidates say they see the strain that has accompanied the unfold of constitution faculties in San Antonio.
Allison referred to as himself a “big champion” of the constitution faculty idea. Whereas on the Alamo Heights faculty board, he helped to develop the idea of Robbins Academy, which operates as a non-traditional highschool of selection inside the district.
Nevertheless, he stated, the best way faculties are funded can create heightened rigidity between charters and conventional faculty districts.
“I’m afraid that we are on a path of destruction for both the so-called traditional schools and charter schools because there isn’t enough money,” Allison stated. “I don’t see any reason why the charter school concept can’t be applied within the traditional school setting.”
Allison believes some magnet faculty packages incorporate the innovation being proven in charters on a standard public faculty campus, mentioning San Antonio ISD’s Superior Studying Academy and NEISD’s North East Faculty of the Arts as examples.
“I don’t see it as a competition issue, I see it as an unnecessary duplication,” Allison stated of charters. “I really see it on the facilities, and duplicating facilities unnecessarily.”
Montoya believes the speedy progress of constitution faculties could also be the results of households’ uncertainty concerning the assets dedicated to conventional public faculty campuses and districts.
“They see or they read about some of the struggles or the threats that public schools face based on these rating systems or the funding of public schools,” she stated, “and that level of uncertainty is uncomfortable for families to have to contend with for their child’s education.”