The students of Clarksville ISD recently completed a successful school year. Due to the hard work of our staff and the consistent efforts of the students, preliminary models from the Texas Education Agency project our campuses to be rated as a healthy C. We take these ratings seriously as we see it as a step toward strengthening the local community’s confidence in its school system.
The improvement to a C rating of our campuses is definitely not our standard, and we plan to spend the rest of this summer and school year in pursuit of acquiring an A rating for all our schools.
This time a year ago, my preliminary research on Clarksville ISD made it a destination district for me when I began my superintendent job search. I have always yearned to serve in schools with high concentrations of low social, economic students. Growing up with minimal resources myself and living in a single-parent household, yet attending a school with high-expectations despite my family’s financial and demographic shortcomings made all the difference for me. My purpose for wanting to work in Clarksville was to replicate my educational experience and construct a school system that has a culture of high expectations and high rates of student achievement despite their research-based limitations.
Since my arrival here, the lack of funding in our schools and how Clarksville ISD has sustained itself with so little financial resources for so long has continued to surprise me. This spring, most educators heard the promise of House Bill 3. It was supposed to breathe fresh air into our school system and provide a reprieve to the local taxpayers by rolling back tax rates in each community. School leaders were hopeful and excited at HB 3’s inception. The governor ratified HB 3 on June 11, and many school districts celebrated, yet Clarksville ISD finds itself devastated and further disadvantaged by the new law.
Clarksville ISD is set to receive a little over $100,000 more in funding from the state while it’s maintenance and operations tax rate will fall from $1.04 to $0.97. Many other local school districts are set to receive organizational-altering funding from the state in September. HB 3 unfairly, and perhaps unintentionally, has ushered in and expanded inequity and has set the ball in motion to create a school system around the state of haves and have-nots. The chart provided details district demographics, and the expected funding from HB 3 strongly supports my assertion.
The new law now creates school systems that can easily offer teachers more in salaries than other school districts. HB 3 requires that 30% of a school district’s new money is allocated to staff raises. Under that HB 3 mandate, the 40 proud and hard-working teachers of Clarksville ISD can expect an estimated raise that approaches all of $750 annually while some districts will easily be able to afford raises that will exceed several thousand dollars.
The bill, at a minimum, established a new and elevated teacher pay scale that most districts in Northeast Texas have used to craft its plan for teacher raises. The new pay scale was keenly important for Clarksville ISD officials to pay attention to. Although we received funding for staff raises of approximately $750, the pay scale mandated raises of an average excess of $4,000 for many of our teachers.
Great budget developers have a rule of never pulling from your savings account for reoccurring events such as meeting payroll. Due to the menial funding projections for Clarksville, this rule is on target to be violated in 2019-20.
The property-tax wealthy districts are able to now reach another level when building a teacher compensation package that surpasses the new minimum pay scale. In the very short-term future, we can expect some of a district’s veteran high-quality teachers to easily make the leap and move into a district that has established a substantial amount of separation in pay. This will leave some districts constantly scrambling to address teacher turnover.
In the short-term, however, everyone wins. Local taxpayers and businesses are all set to receive some relief in their individual school tax bills, the teachers all will get a well-earned raise in their paychecks this year, there will be some school districts able to create some great educational opportunities for students starting this year. However, in the long-run, HB 3 could very well create a greater divide in learning opportunities and experiences of our local youth unless the local community rises up to accept that great schools and positive student outcomes come at a cost.