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18th September 2023
Principals urge Congress to preserve Title I funding
School leaders across the country calling on Congress to preserve federal funding for the education of low-income students. The letter, sent by The National Association of Secondary School Principals on behalf of 45 state school leader associations, warns of “drastic reductions” to Every Student Succeeds Act programs if the proposal from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies becomes law. The opposition comes after a July House subcommittee proposal to eliminate 80% of Title I funding in the FY 2024 budget. Regardless of the final appropriations agreement, Congress has already agreed to level funding for the Education Department in FY 2024 as a result of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Although FY 2024 begins October 1, it is unlikely Congress will meet a September 31 deadline to approve the budget and would need to approve a stopgap measure to avoid a federal government shutdown.
Austin parents want TEA deal rejected
Parents in Austin ISD are calling for the rejection of the Texas Education Agency's proposed deal to fix the district's special education crisis. The deal requires AISD to accept a monitor appointed by TEA, adopt a "Lone Star governance" model for board meetings, dedicate 50% of meetings to "student outcomes," and complete evaluations of students seeking special education services by January 31. The board faces pressure from the community but must decide whether to accept the deal or face a conservator who will enforce the same requirements. Lone Star Governance, a system pushed by TEA, focuses on discussing test scores in board meetings. Trustees question whether crucial work like budgeting and managing human resources falls under this definition.
Clear Creek ISD voters to decide bond package and tax rate increase
Clear Creek ISD voters in League City, Texas will have the opportunity to decide on a $302m bond package in November. The bond package is divided into two parts: Proposition B for $265m, which will fund safety improvements, repairs, and replacements, and Proposition C for $37m, which will be used to purchase computers for students and staff. The bond package will not result in an increase in school taxes. However, voters will also have to decide on a tax rate increase, as the state law dictates a reduction in school property tax rates. The school district's board of trustees is asking for a smaller tax decrease than what the state law allows.
Alvin ISD again lowers tax rate
Alvin ISD's board of trustees has approved a lowered tax rate for the second consecutive year. The new tax rate for fiscal year 2023-24 is $1.1923 per $100 valuation of a home, which is $0.1854 lower than the previous year. This reduction is expected to significantly decrease residents' tax bills. According to Associate Superintendent Daniel Combs, a home valued at $286,730 in 2022 with an assessed value of $315,403 in 2023 will see its tax bill reduced by $831. Alvin ISD's tax rate was initially projected at $1.2977 but was further compressed due to recent state legislation. Despite the increase in home values by over 32% compared to last year, the lowered tax rate will provide relief to homeowners in the area.
Schools' uneven financial funding 'cliffs' examined
Chalkbeat offers a guide to the federal school funding cliff and what factors will make or break school budgets after relief aid runs out. “The feds pushed a lot of money into the K-12 system,” comments Lori Taylor, an education finance researcher at Texas A&M University. “Now the districts are being weaned off of that funding, they’re losing that shock absorber, that cushion.” Schools have received roughly $190bn, which is around $4,000 per student. Money from the final pot has to be earmarked by the end of September 2024, though schools can seek an extension for when that money is actually spent. It’s clear that a good chunk of the funding was indeed used for one-time expenses: HVAC and other building upgrades, personal-protective equipment for COVID, bonuses for staff. In summary, high-poverty schools got more federal money, so face a steeper cliff, the scope of cuts will depend on how schools have chosen to spend federal money, generous state or local funding could cushion the fall but states themselves could soon face budget challenges, thus limiting their ability to help schools.
East Texas officials discuss school funding and charter school regulation
East Texas public education officials and advocates have gathered at the Texas Public Schools Post-88th Legislative Summit to discuss school funding, charter school regulation, and proposed education savings account programs. The state's $33bn budget surplus was a major topic of conversation, with education leaders criticizing lawmakers for not investing the money in public schools. Although proposed funding for schools didn't materialize, the voucher program, which would have provided up to $8,000 per student for private education, also failed to pass. The State Board of Education has vetoed several applications for new charter schools, but proponents argue they offer greater educational opportunities. If a third special session is called, the voucher program and increased funding for schools may be revisited.
School infrastructure challenges underline funding inequities
A CBS News analysis of federal data has found that school districts with more Black students were able to invest far less money in buildings than majority-White districts. The analysis also found that often-unequal funding practices by state governments can potentially make issues significantly worse. Between 2015-2020, districts that were at least 80% Black invested about half as much money in buildings than those that were less than 20% Black. Many states also give those majority-Black districts less money for capital outlay. Districts that were at least 80% Black got about a quarter of the money those with few Black students received. CBS News' analysis of federal data showed those with more students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch also invested less in buildings. Fontana Unified School District in California, for example, which had more than 80% students of color and more than 92% of its children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, invested just $450 per student in buildings during those five years. Etiwanda Schools, just one district to the west and with fewer students of color and fewer students in poverty, invested more than $1,350 per student. "It's not the fault of wealthier school districts that they're able to invest more," says Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund, who has studied inequity in capital school funding for decades. "There's no way to address the structural inequity that we have between school districts without addressing how we fund them," she adds. 
UT Tyler School of Medicine receives $1.1m grant for preventive residency program
The University of Texas at Tyler School of Medicine has been awarded a $1.1m grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration for its General Preventive Residency program. The grant will allow the program to increase the number of residents from four to six, helping to address the shortage of physicians in the northeast Texas region. Dr. Brigham C. Willis, the founding dean of the School of Medicine, expressed gratitude for the grant and emphasized the importance of investing in the future of healthcare. Dr. Peter Pendergrass, the program director of the general preventive medicine residency, highlighted the goals of the grant to expand the number of residents trained in preventive medicine and improve their educational experience. The University of Texas at Tyler offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs and is dedicated to improving educational and healthcare outcomes for East Texas and beyond.
Texas charter school students bridge diplomatic gap in Washington, D.C.
The top students at International Leadership of Texas (ILTexas), a charter school with 23,000 students, visited Washington, D.C. last week to help bridge a diplomatic gap. The school teaches Mandarin Chinese and Spanish to prepare students for public service with a global perspective. Eddie Conger, the school's superintendent and founder, emphasized the importance of the economic and cultural connection between Texas and Mexico. ILTexas students with a personal connection to Mexico met with both U.S. national security officials and Chinese officials during their trip. Though only the top 3% of students got to experience a taste of high-stakes cultural diplomacy, Mr. Conger touted ILTexas's success rate overall, noting that 100% of graduates have received an acceptance to a four-year degree.

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