Cy-Fair ISD seeks help from businesses
Cy-Fair school district Superintendent David Anthony recently told business leaders that state budget cuts being contemplated in the 82nd Texas Legislature will erode the district's positive economic impact in the community.
In his "state of the district" address on Feb. 15 to the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce, Anthony sought to rally the community to contact Texas legislators and ask them to tap into the state's rainy-day savings account of more than $9 billion as one way to preserve funding for Cy-Fair and other public schools.
Anthony, who will retire by June to become CEO of the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas, called his pending departure from Cy-Fair school district "bittersweet," but said he couldn't pass up the chance to help Texas stay focused on providing a quality education. The Cy-Fair board has not defined plans to replace him.
Anthony expressed confidence in the district's administrative and teaching staffs to meet the challenges ahead.
Anthony has testified before Texas House and Senate committees on the funding issue. But he shared a recent call from a state senator, who he later identified as John Whitmire, D-Houston, who told him, "They don't care what you say because you're a superintendent. They want to hear from the people."
Local property taxes contribute $347 million annually to the district. Referring to what is at stake for the local community, Anthony noted that annual salaries for the some 14,600 Cy-Fair ISD employees who live in the district amount to $462 million. In addition, the district will spend $17 million on purchases through local vendors this school year.
"Those funds stay in the community, so we actually do have an economic stimulus effect within the district," he said.
Projected cuts in state funding to the district range from $66 million to $116 million for the 2012-13 biennium. That's the equivalent of 1,300 to 2,300 employees making $50,000 each, Anthony said.
"We've never been where we are in this state before," he said. "I'm hoping for a $20 million reduction, and I never thought I'd hear myself say that."
Cy-Fair ISD receives less state funding per-pupil than Houston and other nearby districts, and has received recognition as one of the nation's most efficient school districts.
It's the state's largest "recognized" school district, with 74 of 76 campuses rated "exemplary" in 2010.
Anthony is asking state leaders to reward that performance with adjustments to the funding formula.
"Hold harmless" clauses in the formula tie up about $5 billion for school districts that lost funding when revisions were made in 2005, he said.
But further cuts in state funding will lead to "significant change in the services we deliver," he told the group.
Anthony introduced members of the citizen-led Community Legislative Committee, who are organizing trips to Austin and letter-writing and e-mail campaigns to impact the conversation about education funding in Austin.
He said their priorities can be found on the Cy-Fair district's website, www.cfisd.net.
Mary Evans, the chamber's president, said she would provide contact information for the area's legislative delegation in an e-mail blast to about 1,700 members.
Some in the audience, such as retired insurance agent Jerry Albrecht, said they've already had conversations with local legislators about the funding problem facing the schools.
Ted Lewis, a dean at Lone Star College in CyFair, said the state budget situation also impacts the community college system.
"We just have to voice our opinion," said Lynda Zelenka, a pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church, which has launched a new nonprofit called Cy-Hope to help all Cy-Fair schools become exemplary.
"Our goals with Cy-Hope will help make a difference for the kids in our community," she said.
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