Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
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Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Gasaway shared his thoughts on the ongoing special session of the 88th Texas Legislature during a meeting of the MFISD Board of Trustees on Oct. 16. Screen-captured image
Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Gasaway publicly challenged the 88th Texas Legislature to fix public education during a meeting of the MFISD Board of Trustees on Monday, Oct. 16. The board also heard a presentation about growth in the Highland Lakes.
Gasaway told the board he signed a joint letter from multiple Texas superintendents addressed to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and state Rep. Dade Phelan.
The letter encourages the Legislature to consider the interests of public schools during the body’s ongoing special session, which started Oct. 9.
Expectations outlined in the letter include:
providing public schools with resources that match inflation;
funding new school safety requirements;
and delivering transparency to taxpayers regarding the recapture funding system, known as Robin Hood.
“Sending money away from public schools, sending kids away from public schools, sending kids to private schools who have the choice of whether or not they want to receive (students) … is not going to fix public education,” Gasaway said. “It’s going to be the hard work going on right here in Marble Falls ISD, up the street at (Burnet Consolidated ISD), and west of us in (Llano ISD). That’s where these things are fixed.”
A lack of funding amid rapid inflation is at the top of the list of issues outlined in the letter. Texas House members are currently looking at a bill to increase the state’s allotment from $6,160 per student to $6,235.
“I was hoping for more, and I think anyone who signed on this letter was hoping for more,” Gasaway said. “To keep up with inflation, it would need to be (increased by) $1,000.”
Unfunded mandates from the state, such as requiring districts to staff school resource officers, are another concern.
“If you’re going to require things, you fund it fully,” Gasaway said. “When you think about what school districts have to pay for a school resource officer or an armed guard, it just doesn’t cover that cost.”
While legislators recently upped the state’s allotment for school safety measures to $30,000 from $15,000, the number is still too low, Gasaway said.
“My hope is that, as they continue to hammer things out, they will continue to look at (allotment for safety personnel),” he said.
Gasaway and other superintendents statewide also requested increased transparency for taxpayers regarding recapture, a funding mechanism for Texas public schools that sends property tax dollars from rich school districts to underserved districts. Marble Falls ISD gave $19 million of recapture to the state this past budget cycle.
“We want to know where it’s going,” Gasaway said. “I think our taxpayers would like to know. If it’s going to other districts, be transparent regarding that.”
The superintendent also challenged legislators to avoid tying bills to unrelated legislation, including school vouchers.
“Our governor over the last week said he was not willing to look at teacher raises, although a committee said we should give teachers raises,” Gasaway said. “He’s not willing to look at the basic allotment. He’s not willing to look at student safety and security or additional funding. He’s not willing to look at anything unless vouchers are passed.”
HIGHLAND LAKES GROWTH
In a presentation regarding growth in the area, Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Christian Fletcher told trustees on Monday to expect the population in the city to more than double over the next 10 years from around 7,000 to 17,000.
Fletcher gave his presentation at the board’s request.
“We are constantly wanting to be up to date on what may be coming this direction,” MFISD board President Kevin Naumann told DailyTrib.com. “We feel the growth, we see the growth, we’ve heard about the growth. It hasn’t really resulted in a whole lot more kids yet, but we thought it was probably wise to keep our ear to the ground and see what’s going on.”
Fletcher didn’t address the need for more campuses but said over 3,300 housing units would be needed to accommodate the population spike. That’s according to a housing needs assessment the EDC received in February, he said.
“We need (housing) that will be attainable for teachers, municipal workers, nurses, that kind of stuff,” Fletcher told the board. “It can’t all be high-wage workers moving out of the metro areas.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The board, voted 7-0 to:
approve an out-of-state travel request for the Marble Falls High School choir to go to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, in March 2024;
purchase curtains for the Marble Falls High School auditorium;