Welcome to the October issue of the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium newsletter! As grantmakers committed to improving public education in the state of Texas, we welcome you to learn more about TEGAC and become involved. This special issue will highlight the findings from Phase I of the data project on the impact of the cuts to public education, which was done by Children At Risk, and which many TEGAC members have generously supported. The study has been receiving a lot of media coverage over the past few weeks, and we've highlighted some of the most important articles in this edition, as well as a link to the full report. So, please take a moment to read through this newsletter and contact us with any questions or comments, or if you are interested in becoming a member of TEGAC.
First Phase of the Data Project Findings by Children At Risk are Released
Texas' 82nd Legislature reduced state spending on public education in 2010-2011 by $5.4 billion, including $4 billion from the Foundation School Program. Although the extent of the cuts has been widely discussed, comprehensive information is lacking on how the cuts were implemented by school districts and the impact on Texas' schools and students.
From January to September 2012, CHILDREN AT RISK conducted a mixed methods study, including a survey with a random stratified sample of school districts, to provide an objective assessment of the impact of state budget cuts on Texas' schools and students.
Texas Public Education Cuts: Impact Assessment evaluated a mix of financial and academic indicators to monitor the district and campus level effects of state budget cuts. Texas' school districts have adapted to the changes in state funding in a variety of ways. Districts prioritized minimizing the impact on student learning and achievement. Small class size, a longstanding statewide education policy priority, has suffered as a result. The preliminary research findings highlight the following:
- The common denominator among school districts was the incredible variation as to how each district was affected by and responded to the cuts.
- Strong leadership prevailed at the district level. Leaders largely worked within existing service delivery frameworks rather than using the cuts as an opportunity to re-envision public education service delivery.
- On average, payroll expenses make up the bulk (80%) of school district spending. Districts achieved target fiscal reductions primarily through staff attrition. Consequently, many districts were unable to avoid a reduction in teaching staff.
- Every effort was made to avoid cuts that would directly impact student learning. However class sizes have increased at the elementary and secondary levels, directly impacting student achievement.
- Evidence based programs and interventions were affected, notably pre-k programs. Fifteen percent of pre-k programs reported cuts.
- School district management and operations are aligning with best practices from the private sector. This includes the use of cost containment strategies, increased collaboration, diversified revenue streams, low administrative overhead and achieving economies of scale where possible.
The data and findings presented in Texas Public Education Cuts: Impact Assessment reflect preliminary research and analysis of the impact of state budget cuts on school districts. CHILDREN AT RISK contacted 80 districts which represent 36% of all students in Texas. The stratified random sample of school districts was designed to be representative of the state in terms of geographic distribution, levels of student poverty and the amount a district is paid to educate a student. CHILDREN AT RISK will survey the remainder of school districts in the fall of 2012 and release statewide findings in January 2013.
CHILDREN AT RISK would like to thank the TEGAC members who have supported this study. The coalition of funders represents a diverse array of the Texas philanthropic community who has prioritized public education as part of their giving portfolio and long term strategic plans. Their vision and generous financial support have been the driving force behind this work.
Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation (San Antonio, Texas)
KDK-Harman Foundation (Austin, Texas)
Kathryn and Beau Ross Foundation (Austin, Texas)
MR and Evelyn Hudson Foundation (Southlake, Texas)
San Antonio Area Foundation (San Antonio, Texas)
The Simmons Foundation (Houston, Texas)
The Trull Foundation (Palacios, Texas)
Wright Family Foundation (Austin, Texas)
For questions or feedback, please contact Sarah Goff, Research Coordinator, at (713) 869-7740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read the full report: http://childrenatrisk.org/research/education/more-with-less/
New Bosses in Town
Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst shook up the education policy world in early October with the announcement of new Chairman of both the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Higher Education Committee. Chairman Dan Patrick (R - Houston) takes over the Senate Education Committee and will oversee the upper chamber's debates over hot button issues like public school finance, vouchers, and charter school expansion.
Session Becoming Clearer
Recent changes to Senate leadership provide a window into the direction the Texas Senate will take in 2013. Newly-appointed Chairman Dan Patrick is likely to push hard and fast for public school vouchers - an issue likely to divide the Legislature along partisan, geographic, and ideological lines.
Support for vouchers in the Texas House has been mixed - even among members of the GOP Caucus. Strong support of vouchers from both Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Governor Rick Perry make at least a feisty debate on vouchers a certainty. Concurrent with the debate on vouchers is discussion of vast expansion of the state's charter school system with both issues highlighted at a recent hearing of the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Chairman Dan Patrick even before his appointment as the Chair of the Committee. Capitol watchers agree that this might be the session for charter schools. Advocates have long expressed concern about the quality of many charters schools already operating in Texas and urge a clear process for closure before major expansion of charters or an elimination of the cap on charter growth occurs.
More info on what awaits in 2013 at:
To NCLB or not to NCLB?
Media Coverage of First Phase of Data Project Findings
About the Consortium
In 2011 the Texas Legislature approved historic cuts to funding for public education. Foundations across Texas have seen successful public/private partnerships threatened or eliminated by budget cuts. Also, demand for scarce foundation dollars is increasing as community groups see their revenues eliminated from school district budgets.
In response, a geographically and politically diverse consortium group of foundations is joining together to promote, protect and improve public education. The Consortium is designed to be a forum and serve as a focal point for organizing philanthropic efforts. In some cases the Consortium seeks to pool funds from multiple foundations to increase the impact of its advocacy efforts. The Consortium is partnering with policymakers, the media, the business community, academics, advocates, parents and others to ensure the broadest dissemination of its work.
Foundations with all levels of interest and experience in advocacy grantmaking are welcome to participate. Because every foundation is different and the needs of the Consortium are so diverse, there is a place for every foundation in the Consortium.
How do foundations join the Consortium?
Foundations are encouraged to become members of the Consortium. When appropriate, members may decide to make a financial contribution to the Consortium. Contributions will cover the costs of research on the impacts of budget cuts, support for multi-foundation events like the 2013 Education Funders Day at the Texas Capitol, and basic administrative overhead such as printing and travel costs. The suggested contribution is $5,000 annually; however, Consortium members are encouraged to contribute at an amount commensurate with their endowment size. The Consortium has created a fund at the Austin Community Foundation to accept contributions. Contributions can be forwarded to the Austin Community Foundation at:
Austin Community Foundation
C/O: Paula Lange, Finance Manager
4315 Guadalupe, Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78751
Tel: 512 472 4483
What are the benefits of membership?
Foundations that join the Consortium will receive:
- Bi-monthly legislative and policy updates
- Up-to-the-minute information on the localized budget impact data produced by CHILDREN AT RISK and available via the Texas Tribune website
- Annual summary of the impact of changes to education funding for all school districts
- Media related exposure (if desired)
- Logo placement on Consortium materials (if desired)
- On-going training on the legal parameters of foundation and nonprofit advocacy
- Participation in the Education Funders Day at the Capitol in February 2013 and 2015
Additionally, members can self-elect to be involved in developing the Consortium's strategy by participating in the Consortium Advisory Circle.
To learn more, please contact Jennifer Esterline, Executive Director, KDK-Harman Foundation, at email@example.com or 512.796.4530.