April 5, 2007
During a public hearing held on April 5, the Spring ISD Board of Trustees rejected a petition submitted by Tom Matthews, on behalf of the 52.7 percent of registered voters in Northgate Forest, requesting that the Northgate Forest area be detached from Spring ISD and annexed to Klein ISD. The petition was rejected because the Board determined the petition was not legally sufficient and did not meet the minimum statutory requirements. Spring ISD did not comment on the petition until after the public hearing.
The petition compared Spring ISD unfavorably with neighboring Klein ISD in regard to tax rate, expenditure per student and academic achievement.
“When comparisons are being made it is important to ensure that the items being compared are actually comparable,” said Superintendent Ralph H. Draper. “Being neighbors does not imply that the two districts are alike. Much more needs to be considered when one attempts to compare Klein ISD with Spring ISD to adequately compare ‘apples to apples.’ While Spring ISD is not particularly interested in comparing the two districts, the Northgate Forest petition has forced the district to respond to inaccurate information shared publicly. The reality is that both districts are working hard to educate students and to respond to their needs.”
Draper addressed the tax-rate comparison by explaining the way schools are financed. He said local taxpayers share with the state of Texas in their support of the education of Spring ISD students. Taxpayers are levied a Maintenance and Operation (M&O) tax that is set annually by the Board of Trustees. The M&O tax rate for Spring ISD is currently $1.31, and Klein ISD’s M&O tax rate is $1.37.
“It is not accurate to say that Spring residents are paying more for students and getting less. Both Spring and Klein have set their local M&O tax rates to meet the particular needs of their individual districts. At this time, under current circumstances, Spring’s M&O tax rate happens to be lower than Klein’s, although that could certainly change in the future,” Draper said.
He went on to explain that Spring ISD’s Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate, which is used to pay debt incurred by building schools and other permanent facilities, is higher than that of Klein ISD due to the district’s higher student growth rate. The I&S tax rate for Spring ISD is 40 cents while Klein ISD’s is 21 cents. This too could change in the future.
“This is strictly due to the difference in the rate of growth between the two districts. Each district must respond to its own particular needs, much the same as two families living side-by-side must respond to different needs. It would stand to reason that if Spring ISD is growing at a faster rate than its neighbor and having to build more schools in a shorter period of time, it would have a higher debt tax rate, which would also affect the total cost per student,” Draper said.
According to data provided by Population and Survey Analysts, Spring ISD has grown by 31.8 percent over the last five years while Klein ISD has grown by 21.0 percent.
“The district’s fast rate of growth combined with unsuccessful bond elections in both 1996 and 2005 has put us behind the eight ball. It has been necessary to accelerate our building of schools in order to catch up to the needs of a growing student population. The district currently uses 142 portable buildings to manage fast growth on a temporary basis at a cost of over $81,000 per building,” Draper said.
While it is not true that the local taxpayers in Spring ISD pay more per student than the local taxpayers in Klein ISD, Spring ISD does have a higher cost per student than Klein ISD. Draper stated two reasons why Spring ISD spends more per student than Klein ISD. First, there are additional costs incurred when addressing the educational needs of students with certain disadvantages and at-risk factors. Second, the total amount a district spends per student includes not only the M&O but also the I&S, which is used for debt repayment.
“When a student is designated by state and federal guidelines as having economic disadvantages and at-risk factors, additional funds are allocated to school districts by the state or federal government to address closing the achievement gap between these students and their advantaged peers. This additional cost is not incurred by the local taxpayer,” Draper said.
According to the most recent report by the state’s Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), Spring has 55.1 percent of students with economic disadvantages and 45.9 percent of students who are at-risk while Klein has 29.8 percent of students with economic disadvantages and 36.3 percent of students who are at-risk.
General fund tax revenues for Spring ISD are $3,289 per student while Klein ISD’s tax revenues are $3,606 per student. Spring ISD’s operating costs per student is $6,129 as compared with Klein ISD’s operating costs of $6,059 per student.
“While all students can learn, additional expenses must make up for the external disadvantages or at-risk factors that a student brings to the school house. Fortunately, this difference in cost is born by the state and federal government," Draper said.
Dr. Dalane Bouillion, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, also responded to the petition that suggests that Spring ISD has lower test scores than Klein ISD. She emphasized that both districts have the same state rating of “acceptable” and federal designation of “meeting adequate yearly progress” and again brought up the fact that the two districts are not similar.
“These state ratings and federal designations are due to an increase in the state’s standards as defined by the accountability system, not by a decline in performance,” said Bouillion.
The state of Texas, when producing formal AEIS reports for campuses, also provides comparisons with similar campuses in other school districts. This information is not provided for districts of similar demographics. However, district research finds some pertinent information. Of the 54 school districts in Region 4, Spring ISD most closely resembles two other school districts in enrollment, percentage of students with economic disadvantages, and ethnicity. District academic success, as measured by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), indicates that all three districts are producing similar results.
School districts can use other tools in order to project student academic success based on the classifications required by the state. One of these tools allows districts to statistically analyze populations and performance based on the classifications provided by AEIS reports.
“We used this tool to compare actual TAKS results in both Klein ISD and Spring ISD based on 2006 reports,” Bouillion said.
Analysis found, when considering each district’s percentage of students with economic disadvantages, both districts are performing at about the same rate. When one accounts for students with economic disadvantages and considers the predicted expectations for both districts, similar results are being produced. Additionally, when one considers all the dynamics involved in the results of TAKS, a very different picture appears.
“Spring ISD will continue to respond to an ever-growing, diverse population. As a district’s economically disadvantaged population grows, so does the need to enhance and diversify instructional methods. This is due to neither different standards, nor the modification of standards, but due to the urgency needed for creating meaningful learning experiences in order to meet different learning styles. A shift in thinking regarding instructional materials and instructional approaches is necessary in order to adequately prepare students with economic disadvantages within the same time frame as specified by the state accountability system.
“We are pleased with the gains we have made in many areas, but we are not satisfied. We have more than doubled the number of schools receiving a recognized rating this year, and we are looking forward to increasing that number next year,” Bouillion said.
Draper said, ”It is not accurate to say that one district is out-performing or operating more efficiently than the other district. There is a difference in shopping between districts with higher performance than that of a different profile.”
National research shows that positive community involvement in schools contributes to academic success. Regina Curry, assistant superintendent for communications and community relations, said that various
opportunities exist throughout Spring ISD for community members to volunteer and become involved in making a difference in the lives of students. She suggested making a personal commitment to join the neighborhood school’s PTO or inquire about becoming a business/community partner. “After all, these are our kids, our schools and our community,” Curry said.
In conclusion, Draper said, “We welcome members of the community to join us in providing a positive and successful educational experience for all the children enrolled in Spring ISD. When citizens of the community believe that they can contribute to enhancing the operations of the district, then I would suggest that they put forth these ideas to be discussed and debated in the larger community. When there are challenges or opportunities in the school district, Spring ISD invites members of the community to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
For more information about volunteer opportunities, call 281-586-1100.