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Home News-Telegram News SSISD joins school finance reform coalition

SSISD joins school finance reform coalition

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Sulphur Springs is once again joining with a coalition of school districts from across the state that are working together through attorneys for school finance reform.

Last year, Sulphur Spring Independent School District joined Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition in the final stages of their appeal to the courts for the current school funding system to be ruled unconstitutional. 

“A lot of school superintendents spoke on behalf [of the group]. We were among the groups to get in late. We were not directly involved. Last year, we gave $1,000,” SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb reminded trustees. “They took it to court saying its a wrong system. Basically, they found it unconstitutional. Now, the questions is ‘what to do to make it right?’”

Last year’s funds put the district’s name among the list of subscribers and help pay the attorneys’ fees.

This year, the coalition is requesting 50 cents per student, which would cost the district roughly $2,500 to join the organization as a full member. The district has the option of contributing just the $1,000 to be named or can pay the full fee and be an active member of the group. This would put SSISD “in on the ground floor ... on the level with others,” giving the district an opportunity to be actively involved in the process,  Lamb noted. 

“If we start and object to the goals, could we stop? What’s their plan? My hesitation would be in not knowing the goal,” school board member John Prickette said.

“They suggested it last time, 50 center per student last time. We participated in the first. We are obligated in the second round. I believe it would be good to do. If we all were to say, ‘Let the others do it,’  it would fall through. The numbers went up after court. That got us funds. I think the amount will go up,” the superintendent explained. 

“So, last year, we were not members, but supported them a little, if I have it right,” Prickette asked.

“We were kinda fearful to join. ... We were afraid they might pick on us or we thought they might hurt us. They’re saying they won’t. We’ll be in on the ground floor and join at the level others do,” Lamb answered in the affirmative. “It was reasonable to be skeptical. I have superintendent friends who were grilled for eight hours at a time. That they won is incredible, for all they have been drug through.”

SSISD Business Manager Sherry McGraw noted that the district received more in funding per student as a result of the “win” in court last year. Ultimately, the district received $1.5 million in additional funding following that session, and could potentially see more money funneled from the state with positive finance reform, Lamb added. “They’re the ones who pay the lawyers to go to court. It goes toward actual prep for the court case,” Lamb said. “They’re a very legitimate group.”

“So, if we joined last year and got $1.5 million, then we can expect more if we do it this year?” Board Secretary Tammy Cooper posed.

The administrators answered in the affirmative.

“I say we rely on the wisdom of our superintendent to lead us in this matter,” Board Vice President Don Sapaugh said.

The board voted 5-0 (board members Jason Dietze and Lesa Toliver were unable to attend the meeting) in favor of resolution 5-13 to pay 50 cents per student to “join with other members of the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition, together with taxpayers and parents, for the purpose of speaking with one voice in the litigation of public school finance matters essential to the fair treatment of Texas taxpayers and public school children.”

The resolution specifically contends students are being denied educational opportunities as a result of the “broken school finance system,” which “even after the actions of the 83rd Legislature, remains inefficient, inadequate, insufficient and thus unconstitutional.” SSISD is asking that Sulphur Springs students receive the same benefits as other Texas students.

 

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