Sometimes it’s better to laugh than to cry. And, humor often can draw much needed attention to more serious problems. In that spirit, the Fast Growth School Coalition (FGSC) presented its inaugural Destination District Awards during the 2016 FGSC Conference in Dallas.
“We had some fun, but it was also a chance for Fast Growth School Districts to shine a spotlight on the critical challenges facing the state’s destination districts,” said Michelle Smith, FGSC Executive Director.
Smith noted, “While less than 10 percent of Texas school districts are considered fast growth, these 76 school districts represent 72 percent of student enrollment growth in the state. Yet, the vast majority of these fast growth districts receive no funding from the state to help keep pace with the facilities needed to house and educate our Texas public school students.”
Inaugural Destination District Award winners include:
Katy ISD received the Hooverville Award. With 315 portables in use across the district, Katy ISD, outside of Houston, topped the number of portable building currently in use for daily student instruction.
Frisco ISD took home the Big Waive Award for the largest percentage of classrooms (grades K-4) with class size waivers granted by the State. Frisco ISD has 29 percent of its K-4 classrooms with class size waivers. Eagle Mountain-Saginaw was not far behind as runner up with 20 percent of K-4 classrooms with class size waivers.
For sheer number of classrooms with class size waivers, both Frisco ISD – 290 classrooms – and Leander ISD – 89 classrooms topped the list.
The oldest building still being used for daily student instruction is Escontrias Early Childhood Center in Socorro ISD. At 95 years old, the Socorro ISD building earned the distinction of Jurassic Property Award winner. But, facilities in Frisco ISD (94 years), Lockhart ISD (93 years) and Northside ISD (93 years) have buildings that are dinosaurs in terms of age.
Lubbock Cooper ISD has a high school which is 81.3 percent over capacity, earning it the My Cup Runneth Over Award.
The state’s 50-cent debt test, which governs the maximum amounts local districts can tax their residents, has left Prosper ISD in a tight spot for 8 years and giving the district its Duct Tape Award.
Fast growth school districts were polled to determine those districts with the most number of years with no state tax dollars for facilities assistance, and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD took home the Show Me the Money Award, as it has been 15 years since the district received state facilities assistance.
Just as the name says, fast growth districts are often those destinations in the state that attract business relocations, expansion and other population growth. These areas are also the districts that are challenged with building enough physical space to accommodate the influx of students. Golden, Silver and Bronze Shovel Awards were handed out during the Destination District Awards for the number of campuses opened in the last 10 years.
Frisco ISD took home the Golden Shovel Award with 41 news campuses and 4 support facilities in 10 years. (Side note: Frisco has added 55 campuses in the past 15 years). Northside ISD took home the Silver Shovel Award with 31 new campuses built in the past 10 years. And, the Bronze Shovel Award went to Cypress Fairbanks ISD with 21 campuses built in the past 10 years.
So, are the challenges that fast growth school districts face a state or local funding issue? It’s both, and the Fast Growth School Coalition stresses the need to work together – not against each other – to solve this problem.
“While it’s true that Texas has the second highest local debt in the United States, we also have one of the lowest state debts in the nation. There’s some basic imbalance that must be addressed if we’re going to successfully meet the needs of the students in our fast growth districts,” Smith explained.
“And, while some believe its local taxing authorities – including school districts — that are saddling future generations with insurmountable economic obstacles, the reality is our state elected leaders forced this situation upon local districts by reducing or eliminating many of the state funding streams available to address these facilities and growth concerns,” Smith added.
In the end, the Destination District Awards really are no laughing matter.
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