Dear Alief ISD Key Communicator,

As we begin the second semester of the 2012-2013 school year, I wanted to bring a couple of issues to your attention as it relates to public education in Alief ISD as well as other districts across our state.

The first issue is school finance. As you may or may not know, more than 600 of the 1,100 school districts in Texas (including Alief ISD) brought a lawsuit against the state of Texas for what we consider to be a violation of the Texas Constitution regarding the funding of public education in Texas. While I have written on this topic in the past and will not go into much detail about the legal reasons for the suit, I wanted to share with you one example of how the state budget cuts ($5.4 billion for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 school years) have had a direct impact on a district’s ability to educate all students.

Beginning with the 2004-2005 school year, Texas began providing local school districts a source of funds called the Student Success Initiative grant (SSI). These SSI funds were to be used to provide additional individual tutoring and remediation sessions for the students in grades 3-8 that were struggling with the state mandated tests (TAKS and now STAAR). The funds were allocated based on several relevant factors and most districts used these funds very effectively over the last eight years or so in helping student performance improve. If you have noticed, student performance (based on state mandated tests) has improved each year since 2004-2005 and for many districts across Texas, the SSI funds were in large part responsible for much of the improvement.

As the state began deciding how much to cut from public education in 2011, SSI funds, as well as many other funding resources, were reduced significantly or eliminated. For example, Alief ISD qualified for $2.4 million in SSI funds in 2006-2007 but due to budget cuts, received $0 for 2011-12 and 2012-2013. While I am not arguing that money is the only difference in providing a quality education, I am arguing that thoughtless cuts like the SSI funds cut do have a genuine negative impact on a district’s ability to help all students improve.

The school finance trial is currently in District Court in Travis County (Austin, TX) and should conclude at the end of January. The presiding judge (Judge Dietz) has indicated he expects to make a ruling in early February. Regardless of the outcome of the district trial, there is expected to be an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court which will delay any final outcome until the fall of 2013 or possibly spring of 2014.

One last thing I wanted to mention is that January is Texas School Board Recognition Month. I would encourage each of you to think about the role your local school board plays in the education of the students in your district and across Texas. In Alief ISD, I know I speak on behalf of the Alief ISD staff and community when I say I am grateful and appreciative to the seven Alief community members who give up their time to serve as board members.

These community members serve as unpaid trustees responsible for the oversight of the school district and I can’t thank them enough for their service. They are: Ms. Ella Jefferson, President, Dr. John Hansen, Vice President, Mrs. Sarah Winkler, Secretary, Mr. Rick Moreno, Assistant Secretary, Mr. Gary Cook, Trustee, Mr. Nghi Ho, Trustee and Ms. Ann Williams, Trustee. There are more than 7,000 Board Members in Texas and I encourage you to let your local trustee know that you appreciate their time and efforts.

Thank you for your continued support and interest in the Alief Independent School District by serving as a Key Communicator.

HD Chambers
Alief ISD Superintendent