As I write this article in early April, we are interviewing superintendent candidates. As you read this article in early May, we will be introducing our new leader to the RISD community.

Also as I write this article in early April, a special session of the Legislature is still uncertain. In early May, hopefully, the Legislature will be hard at work revising public school finance.

The Joint Select Committee Adequacy Study concluded that the cost of educating a Texas public school student ranged from $6,172 to $6,271. Sadly, this deeply flawed study set 55 percent of children passing math and language arts only as the standard. The study termed all other subjects “inefficient.”

This finding directly contradicts legislated accountability requirements. The state holds us accountable for math, language, science and social studies. Texas labels a passing rate of 55 percent as “Low Performing.” The federal No Child Left Behind law requires a 100 percent passing rate. Meeting these accountability levels requires more resources.

As of early April, trustees are considering eliminating the homestead exemption. In early May, there still may be too many unknowns. We must decide this issue by the Central Appraisal District deadline of June 30th.

All proposed new school finance plans suggest the 2004-05 school budget as the baseline amount that districts will be guaranteed to receive. Proposals also suggest eliminating all homestead exemptions from 2005-06 forward.

We face a unique one-time opportunity. Eliminating the optional homestead exemption yields the district $9.2 million additional operating dollars, both in 2004-05 and in every subsequent year.

What does this mean to you? The average assessed property value of an RISD home is $177,000. Removing the homestead exemption would cost the average taxpayer $487 during the coming school year. Thereafter, it would cost the taxpayer nothing.

However, the school district would continue to receive the $487 in its baseline budget in 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, etc. In other words, RISD would receive a 100 percent return on your investment every year for an unknown number of future years.

At a time when the Legislature classifies science, social studies, foreign language, art, music, athletics, journalism, theatre, communications, etc. – everything except math and language – as “inefficient” and therefore unfunded, we must seriously consider this unpleasant and even painful one-year investment to preserve our community’s quality education.

Please express your views to your legislative representatives.