EPISD–a parent’s comments

September 18, 2018

A loyal reader sent this in:

I simply must express my deep disappointment with EPISD’s instructional technology.  I’m a parent with one still in EPISD.  I have expressed concern about the technology with my AP, but things don’t get fixed.
Technology is fragmented:  My HS student and I use too many different online services.  Teacher specific websites with notes (mostly on Weebly), Schoolology and online textbooks, 3rd party smart phone apps like Remind used by some but not all teachers, Parent Portal for grades and attendance, services like https://www.commonlit.org/ for an English class, emails from teachers with handouts/policies (one attachment per email due to EPISD rules means my inbox is flooded with emails and attachments vs. those being housed and organized online), plus more.  Can’t this school district get a single integrated online learning system like Canvas or Blackboard? If not, then something else but this fragmentation of learning supports must end.
The free computers are starting to break.  But when they do, the family is charged for repairs like broken screens.  Well, kids do need to be careful with their belongings and pay for negligence.  But, accidents do happen and I wonder why families must insure the equipment at their cost (about $200 for a repair of a two year old laptop I think).  I tend to think that if a child is required to carry a laptop then the authority who required such is responsible for upkeep and replacement; the child doesn’t have money and parent didn’t make a decision to issue laptops; this was an EIPSD decision.  I wonder what happens when a family can’t afford the fee to fix a broken laptop.  I’m not against technology, but this computer centric initiative was rolled-out without enough thought.
Finally, and this isn’t a total technology issue, the active learning really is not working – listen up EPISD – I’m telling you that active learning, no matter how good in theory, is not working.  You are hurting some kids with this ill conceived approach.

The Wizard

Watch your school taxes go up next year

September 13, 2018

We wrote about how your EPISD debt service (interest and sinking fund or I&S) rate will have to go up next year in EPISD–some real numbers.

The district wants the voters to approve lowering the I&S rate from 24 cents per hundred to 14 cents per hundred and then adding those 10 cents to the current maintenance and operations rate of $1.07 thus making that rate $1.17 per hundred.

The district knows that they will actually need an I&S rate of 31 cents for 2018-2019.

Some will tell us not to worry because raising the I&S rate from 14 to 31 cents next would trigger a rollback election.

Wrong!

This Texas attorney general opinion tells us that they can raise the rate up to the maximum allowed (50 cents) without triggering a rollback election:

“There is no ceiling or limit on the debt rate for the purposes of the
rollback rate calculation. See TEX. TAX CODE ANN. § 26.08(n)(2)(A)(iv), B(iii) (Vernon SUpp.
2009). Any increases in the adopted debt service rate necessary to pay a school district’s debt
increases the “current debt rate” component of the rollba.ck formula and the combined rollback tax
rate. See id. ; see also COMPTROLLER GUIDE, supra note 6, at 13-14 (“The portion of the overall rate
used to retire debt may rise as high as necessary without triggering the threat of a rollback.”).]]”

They are not telling us the whole story.

We deserve better

Brutus


EPISD–some real numbers

September 6, 2018

Following up on our post the other day, we wrote in False Promise that EPISD is going to ask us to authorize taking 10 cents per hundred out of their interest and sinking fund property tax rate and adding it to their maintenance and operations rate (currently at $1.07 per hundred).

Until the issue is voted upon the district is required to publish a budget for next year.  This slide came from their web site:

It shows that they currently plan to spend $47,070,011 on debt service.

That’s if we don’t allow them to change the current 24 cent interest and sinking fund tax rate to 14 cents.

Then they won’t have enough money to service our debts.

In fact this April 2017 presentation to the citizen’s bond advisory committee projects that they will need a tax rate of 31 cents for 2018-2019.

They are simply robbing Peter to rob Paul.

They want us to approve the tax rate swap knowing that they will have to raise the interest and sinking fund rate next year.

We deserve better

Brutus


False promise

September 4, 2018

The EPISD board of trustees will ask us at the next election to authorize lowering their interest and sinking fund tax rate by ten cents and increase their maintenance and operation tax rate by an equal amount.

They want us to believe that this move will not cost us anything.

They also point out that doing what they ask will bring in an additional $7.5 million from the state.  They don’t tell us if the extra money will come to us every year or if the $7.5 million is a one-time deal.

No cost

The board tells us that voting for this will not cost us any money.

That is simply not true.  The school district has debt that must be paid off using the interest and sinking fund.

The district has not told us that the $7.5 million will be applied to reducing debt obligations.  In fact they have told us that the money will be used to pay a one time stipend to the teachers and to increase the district’s fund balance.

Taking ten cents out of the interest and sinking fund rate will slow down their debt payments–a process that will cost us interest money.

Also they are not reminding us that they are in the process of issuing over $660 million in bonds that will need to be paid from the interest and sinking fund.

How can they do that when they are lowing the debt rate by 10 cents?

How can they do that?

It’s simple, they can’t.

Watch out next year and see how they raise the debt rate.

We deserve better

Brutus


Another problem for EPISD?

September 1, 2018

If it turns out the the birth rate decline lasts for a while I wonder what EPISD will do to handle the enormous decrease in student population.

A 20% decline for an entire quarter represents 5% fewer students five years from now.

Obviously if the decline lasts an entire year the district will have 20% fewer students entering kindergarten and the effect will be felt for twelve years.

We deserve better

Brutus


Maximizing effectiveness

August 30, 2018

From an EPISD report:

In addition to the 2016 bond funds described above, EPISD has transferred available 2007 Bond Funds for Andress High School ($10.2M) and Irvin High School ($25.6M) into Jacobs’ management scope of work in order to maximize the effectiveness of those dollars in a cohesive plan for each of those campuses.

Most of us realize that we are in the year 2018.  The bond money being transferred was approved by the voters in 2007.

Eleven years later they are thinking of doing something with it.

Many of us think that maximizing effectiveness of the 2007 money would have meant using it sooner or not asking for it in the first place.

We deserve better

Brutus


Another penny swap election

August 24, 2018

The El Paso independent school district is planning to put a tax question to the voters.  The board wants to move ten cents from the rate we are charged for interest on bonds over to the day-to-day maintenance and operations portion of the budget.

In theory the taxpayers will pay no more if the voters approve the action.  The district tells us however that approving the change will bring an additional $7 million in from the state.

The school board has said that they will give each teacher a $750 one-time bonus if the issue is approved.

According to a recent article in the Times the management of the teachers union does not support the idea.  From the Times:

Teachers don’t trust that the board will actually pay out the bonus, said Ross Moore, president of the El Paso chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

“There have been promises time after time and it’s been a bait and switch,” Moore said, adding that some teachers feel the bonus is an attempt to “bribe” them.

“If you vote ‘yes,’ you get money,” Moore said at the meeting.

So we have to decide if we trust the district.

We deserve better

Brutus


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