• September 17, 2019

State of Education covers wide range of topics - Odessa American: ECISD

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State of Education covers wide range of topics

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Posted: Friday, September 13, 2019 4:56 pm

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, laid out the issues and solutions Thursday night during a State of Education Address: An Evening focused on Education in Ector County.

Organized by Young Professionals of Odessa and held in the Zant Room of the Saulsbury Campus Center at Odessa College, speakers also included Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri, Lisa Wyman of the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee set up after passage of the tax ratification election in November 2018, and Debbie Lieb, ECISD community engagement specialist.

Alexa Dunson of CBS 7 was the emcee and moderated the discussion.

Landgraf said the legislature adopted a quarter of a trillion dollar budget. A $9 billion infusion was put into public education, in part to buy a property tax cut for the next two years at least.

Landgraf said this will be distributed on a per pupil basis statewide.

The state is now paying more of its fair share of education costs — about 45 percent compared to 37 percent in 2018.

Landgraf said the state also took a bite out of the Robin Hood system of about $3.6 billion over the next two years. He said over the next two years, ECISD would have paid $1.8 million in recapture, or Robin Hood. But with House Bill 3, it won’t be paying recapture for the next two years.

In that $9 billion over and above what the state usually puts into public education and infused that into school districts statewide.

Landgraf said the state did that to buy a tax cut for property tax payers. Amounts to about $5 billion in tax relief over the next two years.

He said is $2 billion of that $9 billion was for teacher pay raises.

Not only was the Permian Basin falling behind its peers, but Texas was falling behind its some of its counterparts in the United States.

Some $200 million was allocated for building improvements, including emergency response training, fencing and emerging technologies, Landgraf said.

Muri reviewed ECISD’s demographics. He said there are over 34,000 students in ECISD this year, which is about 1,000 more than they ended the year with last year and about 400 more than they thought they would have this year.

Many of those students are in the elementary schools.

Muri said 76 percent are Hispanic, 17 percent white and African American and Asians are in the single digits.

Fifty-six percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, Muri said.

“And we actually think that number is a little bit low. We recognize that some of our middle school and high school kids and their families don’t send back some of the required paperwork, if you will to qualify for that opportunity,” he added.

Muri said ECISD probably has more like 60 percent of children eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Last year, the district was at 51 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Muri said the increase could be because more information has been received from families, but it could also be that the level of poverty is increasing.

Majority of our schools are not doing well today. There are 16 failing campuses under the state accountability system which rates schools and districts on an A-F scale.

The district is currently working on a strategic plan that will be rolled out this winter, Muri said.

On a question about when a bond might be on a ballot, Wyman said she personally thought it might be in November 2020. She said the needs in the district are dire, but there is still a lot of work to do.

As part of his prayer to start the meeting, Randy Unruh, associate minister at Stonegate Fellowship, read the names of the victims killed in the Aug. 31 mass shooting and offered a moment of silence.

Odessa, TX

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