TEA Looking at Letting School Districts Draw From Fund Balance During Budget Crisis

Commissioner of Education Robert Scott
About a month ago, Dallas Independent School District spokesman Jon Dahlander told Unfair Park that even during this current budget crisis, the district has no intention of touching its fund balance, which, he said, should sit at somewhere near the $100-million mark. Explained Dahlander, the DISD's reserve fund is not like the state's Rainy Day Fund, which is replenished by oil and gas proceeds. He also reminded that ex-chief financial officer Larry Throm told the school board to get that thing back up to $150 million. Said Dahlander, "The goal for any school district is to be able to have two pay periods in the bank."

The Texas Education Agency uses the fund balance to determine a district's fiscal well-being; far as the TEA's concerned, districts with "a fund balance less than 12.5% (1½ months) of the district's general fund expenditures" is considered insolvent, and districts statewide are loath to touch the thing for myriad reasons. But even as long ago as November, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa knew, deep down, he may have to tap that fund, which, during The Great Budget Crisis of 2008, hovered around $37 million. There's been no mention of the fund balance in any of the budget-reduction scenarios presented to the board, including last week's not-as-bad-as-the-worst-case-scenario Version 2.0.

But on her blog this morning, DISD trustee Carla Ranger points out that two days ago, Robert Scott, the state's commissioner of education, sent this missive to district administrators statewide acknowledging that the TEA has begun "the process of modifying indicators in the 2010-2011 School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) that require school districts and charter schools to maintain approximately 60 days of operating expenses in their general fund account." He says the agency will know more in May, at which point it'll send word and ask for comment, but long story short, he writes:
Given the state's future revenue projections, it is the intent of the agency to avoid penalizing districts and charters that elect to expend portions of their fund balance in the upcoming biennium as a result of the nation's slow economic recovery and any changes the Legislature may make in state funding. The agency's goal is to provide school districts and charter schools flexibility to manage their budgets locally, and TEA will work on changes to the FIRST rules relating to the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 fiscal years, which will affect FIRST ratings issued in 2013 and 2014.

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How much do you think the state spends each year coming up with acronyms?

Because I'll bet it's a lot.


Dang, I thought for a minute that you were talking about the hapless TDH and TMA.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

TEA. Whatever.They stand by and do NOTHING about DISD's deplorable mismanagement and the multiple failing schools.

TEA's main job seems to be watering down state curric and manipulating TAKS tests to make politicians look good.

Last year, 8th graders had to get a pathetic 44% to "pass" the Social Studies TAKS. 44%!Yeah, public education is AWESOME these days.

Math and Reading TAKS are in the same booklet and use the same answer sheet (there's a section of bubbles for Math and a section of bubbles for Reading).Kids take the Math on one day and come back the next day to take Reading. EVEN THE KIDS have figured out that you can go home after the Math, look up answers you were unsure about, and change the answers the next day before, during, or after the Reading TAKS.

I think TEA is hoping the kids will cheat so the math scores will look better.

Do you think the hardened criminals at DISD give a flip what TEA says? Right. They'll tap that reserve fund whenever they damn well please.

Most of TEA exists to convert your taxes into their paycheck.

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