AP NEWS

Klein ISD focuses on legislative session, advocacy to improve district

March 1, 2019

After being forced to make more than $22 million in budget cuts following a failed tax ratification election in June 2018, Klein ISD is looking to be more transparent and proactive about the future of funding for not only their district, but other school districts as well.

Klein ISD has shifted gears by forming the Klein Leadership Coalition in January 2019, aiming to hone their legislative priorities and push supporters of Klein ISD to be active in their community and with their legislators in keeping people informed about important issues affecting the district.

Matt Champion, superintendent of Klein ISD, said the district is working to fix their financial situation by working with legislators and advocating for all Texas public school districts. Since cutting the budget, class sizes have increased and several employees have taken on more responsibilities while administration hiring is on hold, he said.

“Unfortunately, given the current state of the Texas school finance system and the failure of the TRE, there are no additional state funds coming to Klein ISD at this time,” Champion said. “The district continues to work with our legislators this legislative session to improve the state school funding system and is hopeful the legislature will make significant improvements to the system.”

During a KLC meeting on Feb. 28, Champion said the district will need to cut an additional $8 million from its budget due to the TRE failing and the lack of funding, encouraging the KLC to speak with legislators to advocate for a change to the funding approach for public schools, spread the word around the community and even go visit the capitol if possible.

“For the health and safety of students and staff, the district did not consider reductions in police officers, nurses, clinic assistants, crossing guards, parking lot attendants, or counselors,” he said. “Klein ISD continues to work very hard to ensure that no one loses a job during this difficult financial time.”

During the meeting, committee members were split into groups to learn how to advocate using a phone, how to spread information and how to speak with legislators.

Champion said if legislators do not opt for funding that helps the district, another TRE could potentially be up for a vote in November.

“If changes to the state funding formulas increase overall funding per student to an adequate amount to provide services, a TRE will not be necessary,” he said.

The KLC outline their main priorities for the legislative session including replacing the A-F statewide system with a more fleshed-out accountability system that would analyze several qualities of a school; better budgeting for Texas public schools, including more funding per student; requiring all schools that recieve tax dollars to be held to the same standards as public schools, and disavowing school vouchers.

Liberty Corn, teacher for Klein ISD, said she is passionate about her job and wants to be able to provide for her students with better funding. Corn said she is upset about having less funding than surrounding states. In 2016 Louisiana, a smaller southern state, provided approximately $11,000 per student compared to approximately $9,000 per student Texas.

“That effects our kids daily when we can’t take field trips because we don’t have funding for buses,” she said. “I work in a low-income school. Some of my kids have never been to the zoo. It would be great to go to the zoo, but we can’t go because we don’t have money for buses to go. That’s ridiculous to me.”

The KLC will continue to meet once a month until May 27 and the next meeting is on March 28. For more information on the KLC and meeting times, visit https://kleinisd.net/klc.

chevall.pryce@chron.com