District tries to become more efficient
Cy-Fair ISD has been affected by a large brunt of the state cuts to education during the past five years.
When the previous legislative session ended last summer, the state was faced with a $5.3 billion cut to public education, which meant CFISD would lose $56 million of its state revenue for the biennium. Senate Bill 1 legislated a funding system away from target revenue to a formula-based system, which meant districts funded based on a formula allotment, including CFISD, received a 2-percent increase over the 2011-12 state funding revenue for 2012-13, said Kelli Durham, associate superintendent for communication. This means CFISD will receive $41 million more for the 2012–13 school year than it did last year.
Although the 2012–13 budget contains no reductions for the first time since 2006, administrators continue to explore ways to maintain efficiency within the district to do more with less.
“I don’t want to paint a bleak picture, but I don’t want to be completely Pollyanna and say everything will be wonderful,” said Roy Garcia, associate superintendent for curriculum, instruction and school administration, during the May 10 board meeting. “It will be a challenge. We’re going to have to look at other means of additional resources in the future.”
Making it work
As CFISD continues to do more with less, it is studying other districts across the country, Garcia said.
“A district in Nevada has cut more than we have in five years, as well one in Maryland,” he said. We’ve just got to continue to provide the best education we can and do whatever we can to assist teachers and others on campus.”
During the past several years, CFISD has developed a leadership academy to prepare employees who might be interested in future management positions outside the campus level.
“It’s a year-long academy for current campus-level administrators who aspire to other leadership positions,” said Teresa Hull, associate superintendent for human resources. “It’s an opportunity for them to expand and enhance their leadership skills.”
Due to the budget cuts, district employees have taken on additional work and responsibilities without more pay over the years.
“We won’t sit here and tell you that four, five or six years down the road there won’t be indications we cut $120 million out of the budget,” said superintendent Mark Henry during the May 10 meeting. “There will be ramifications, but we don’t know where they will be. You can’t cut $120 million out of an organization and not see effects.”
Cost per student
CFISD’s cost per student is one of the lowest in the Houston area—and will most likely continue to be—even with the budgeted $370 increase up to $6,626 for the 2012–13 school year.
Texas school districts receive per-student funding based on daily attendance and weighted daily attendance averages, the latter of which means districts receive more money for certain types of pupils such as special education, limited English proficient and economically disadvantaged students.
If enrollment increases—which it has by nearly 20,000 students since 2005 in CFISD—a district receives greater total revenue, but it does not affect the amount it receives per student.
Issues with the school finance system have legislators asking how it got into such a position in the first place, said Stuart Snow, associate superintendent for business and financial services.
“I know how it came about back in 2005 and why we were left with what we were left with, but why that happened? I don’t think anyone has the answer to that,” he said. “Certainly our students are not valued any less than other students in the state.”
A portion of the district’s $729 million budget accounts for a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for all employees. The state’s consumer price index has increased 5 percent in the past two years, and the district’s health insurance premiums are going up next year, two factors that contributed to the raises.
“We have asked our employees over the last several years to do more and take on more duties and responsibilities,” Snow said. “We believe the [salary] increase is a reward for employees for their past performance, as we are the largest recognized district in the state.”
Additionally, the raises were intended to help with employee stress levels.
“It doesn’t matter how many [budget] cuts we get, the teachers do what they do and go on anyway,” said trustee Bob Covey. “It’s unfortunate, because they are touching the future for us and they should get pay that reflects that importance.”