“The problem we have is that as our local revenue grows, the state gives us less, so there’s little relief. But I think in Katy, we do a great job. Student learning has to be our No. 1 priority.”  This was part of Katy ISD’s current superintendent’s response when asked by the Houston Chronicle how Katy ISD was going to navigate the rising costs for school districts while still providing its students a quality education.[i]  Unfortunately actions speak louder than words and the past actions by each of the incumbents running for re-election have done everything to communicate that at Katy ISD, students are not the number one priority, verifiably so.  Before casting your vote this Saturday, please consider the following past actions which have occurred under each of the incumbents’ watch:

·         Sacrificed classroom space in the face of student overcrowding for a highly-overpriced $72 million high school stadium[ii]

·         Hired the current Katy ISD Superintendent at a $375,000 annual base salary[iii]  (which was recently raised to $386,250 thanks to a recent 3% raise awarded by the current school board)[iv], which was significantly above market value in the face of a budget shortfall this school year

·         Placed students in harm’s way by failing to provide them with busing while defending such actions with questionable methods and practices[v]

·         Ignored parent input and unilaterally decided the fate of our children with their indefensible high school boundary modifications[vi]

·         Approved superintendent’s decision to add two new upper administration positions, a deputy superintendent position and an in-house attorney each at six figure salaries, essentially diverting, once more, its already limited resources away from the classroom[vii]

·         Approved the Superintendent’s proposal to seek “District of Innovation” status from TEA, a designation that would permit the district to allow uncertified teachers to teach our students and to increase the number of students per teacher in our classrooms should the district desire to do this[viii]

Now, in light of the foregoing actions, can we reasonably – and honestly – say that the incumbents have had our children’s best interests in mind? Can we say that such actions live up to the Superintendent’s professed goal that at Katy ISD, “Student learning has to be our No. 1 priority”?  Sincerely, and with all honesty, we unequivocally cannot say this.  Unfortunately, these recent trends set by the current incumbents represent a deeply rooted practice that has consistently placed students and teachers last on the priority list as Katy ISD’s budgetary numbers over the past few years glaringly demonstrate.

Consider the following data snapshot provided by Ballotpedia,[ix] Figure 1, which places Katy ISD as the worst among Texas 10 largest school districts when it comes to its“actual per pupil expenditures.”  According to Ballotpedia, which uses 2014 public school data from the U.S. Census Bureau in its analysis, the average classroom expenditures (“actual per pupil expenditures”) by the top 1,000 American school districts is 85.68%.  Using that same measure, Katy ISD’s “actual per pupil expenditures” was a shameful 64.64% when the data snapshot was taken on November 17, 2014.  Judging by the spending trends that we have seen since then – Legacy Stadium and the current superintendent’s above market salary come to mind – where the focus has been shamefully away from the students, we should have no reason to believe that such a meager and below state and national instructional spending average has changed much since then.  Below you will note that not only is Katy ISD dead last when it comes to targeting its limited resources towards instruction, but it also has the highest taxing rates among the 10 largest school districts in Texas at 1.51.

To put things into proper perspective, a family with a $200,000 home is paying approximately $3,133.20 in property taxes by living within the Katy ISD boundaries.  In contrast, that same family with a $200,000 home would be paying $2,680.00 (Fort Bend) and $2,646.78 (Aldine) respectively if that family were living within the boundaries of Fort Bend ISD and Aldine ISD.  Although this difference of about $500 might not seem like a lot over the course of a year, it is quite a significant sum over the course of a typical 30 year mortgage as this is $500 that could go towards reducing the principal of your mortgage loan and save your family thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your home loan.  Now, this would be a worthy sacrifice if we knew that our tax money was being spent responsibly and that it was also being targeted towards the direct benefit of our children’s education.  Unfortunately, we cannot honestly say that.  The facts are overwhelmingly clear that our current school board has failed us miserably in this and many other respects.

  Additionally, on the issue of operating costs and the ability to do more with less, our current school board has failed us miserably.  When measured up against comparably sized Houston area school districts Fort Bend ISD and Aldine ISD, Katy ISD’s operating costs were significantly higher despite having a smaller student population.  Where Katy ISD’s operating costs for the time period were $717,715,000, Fort Bend ISD’s and Aldine ISD’s operating costs were $597,592,000 and $553,073,000 respectively.  Despite operating with significantly smaller budgets than Katy ISD, both school districts still managed to spend robust “actual per pupil expenditures” of 85.79% and 89.87% respectively as opposed to Katy ISD’s 64.64%. 

 

FIGURE 1

School District

Enrollment

Total Expenditures

Expenditures Per Student

Actual Per Pupil Expenditures

% Total                        Expenditures Spent on Pupils

2016    Tax Rate

Houston ISD

203,066

2,355,857,000

11,601

9,232

79.58%

1.2067

Dallas ISD

157,575

1,900,501,000

12,061

8,566

71.02%

1.282085

Cy-Fair ISD

107,960

894,600,000

8,286

6,828

82.40%

1.44

Northside ISD

98,110

955,210,000

9,736

7,443

76.45%

1.3755

Austin ISD

86,528

1,002,664,000

11,588

8,880

76.63%

1.192

Fort Worth ISD

83,109

864,878,000

10,407

8,840

84.95%

1.352

Fort Bend ISD

69,449

597,592,000

8,605

7,382

85.79%

1.34

North East ISD

67,439

667,846,000

9,903

8,010

80.88%

1.385

Aldine ISD

64,300

553,073,000

8,601

7,730

89.87%

1.323388

Katy ISD

62,414

717,715,000

11,499

7,433

64.64%

1.5166

 Given the foregoing shameful numbers, can we honestly say that Katy ISD puts students and teachers on top of its priority list?  Can we honestly say that the incumbents have earned our trust as responsible fiduciary agents for another three years?  Can we honestly say that the incumbents have earned our trust to put our children’s best interests first and foremost?  If we are really honest with ourselves, the answer is an absolute and unequivocal NO.

 On Saturday May 6, please vote for responsible stewardship of your hard-earned tax dollars and for people who really have our children’s best interest in mind.  I therefore humbly ask for your vote and the privilege to serve you.  This Saturday, please vote for David Velasquez, for Katy ISD SB, Position 3 and for Carlos Young, Katy ISD SB, Position 4.  We are ready and eager to serve this community and earn your trust.

 Now before I close this post, I would like to make clear that my expressed issues here are not to be construed as me having issues with the superintendent per se, but rather with the school board members’ actions in supporting measures that have impacted in a significant way the lives of our children and our lives as both parents and taxpayers.  Although the superintendent can and has proposed many of these measures, it is the school board who ultimately determined whether to approve these.  It is the school board in general and the incumbents in particular that I have issues with, particularly because of how their derelictions of duties have affected our lives.  Do I have philosophical differences with the superintendent?  Absolutely, but that is what school board deliberations and discussions are for, to arrive at reasonable compromises.  That is what school board members are elected for, to question each and every proposal made by the superintendent and staff and attempt to strike a balance that best meets the needs and interests of our children, teachers and greater community.

 Respectfully,

 /S/

 Dr. David Velasquez

Candidate for Katy ISD SB, Position 3

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