CFISD committee details district priorities for upcoming legislative session
With the 86th regular Texas Legislative Session commencing in Jan. 2019, Cy-Fair ISD’s Community Leadership Committee has outlined a plan of action for the district.
During the latest CFISD meeting, the Community Leadership Committee — a volunteer group of community members advocating for CFISD at local, state and federal levels — presented a draft of their priorities for the district going into the Texas Legislature’s 86th session on Jan. 8, 2019.
Priorities for CLC going into the session include establishing adequate and equitable funding; preparing students for success; ensuring school effectiveness; and increasing local control. Julie Hinaman, chair of CLC, gave the presentation outlining the priorities.
“We started this summer with a very small group of us members, starting with our legislative priorities from the last legislative session,” she said. “We also reviewed legislative priorities from other school districts, both small and rural; large and urban; and everything in between. We also looked at different advocacy groups and we tried to pull some of the best of what we saw into our own legislative priorities.”
One of the significant priorities for CLC is for funding formulas to be updated, which Hinaman said have not been updated since 1993. Other financial priorities include lobbying for state government support in covering the cost of unfunded mandates, as well as decreasing state reliance on property taxes.
Hinaman said the optional homestead tax exemption rule, allowing taxpayers under 65 exemptions of $25,000 plus 20 percent of their property’s tax value and an additional $25,000 for homeowners 65 or older, needs to be reviewed and modified by legislature to remove penalties toward school districts.
“What is not well-known is that because of that tax relief you offer to us, the state assesses a penalty to the school district and actually cuts the funding that goes to our public schools because the district is not sending its fair share of taxes to the state,” she said.
CLC is also advocating to remove testing that is not federally required and to replace STAAR with a nationally normed student assessment, Hinaman said. She said the testing scores and overall accountability ratings statewide should be re-evaluated.
“They take those scores, slice them, dice them, mix them up, put them in the accountability blender, take it out, mold it into a letter grade, deep fry it and hand it to the parent,” Hinaman said. “It’s much more complex than what is being presented to parents. Plus, we don’t get those results until the summer time after the kiddos have already moved on.”
Although this is the 14th draft of this plan, Hinaman said the CLC is looking to revise and review the priorities before the session, as well as reaching out to the community and educating community members.
“We are going to continue to hopefully fine-tune these, create some tools for our committee members to use to go out and engage the community,” she said. “We’ll also be continuing to build relationships with our elected officials as we gear up to then jump into the session, which starts in January.”