Surge in state funding restores district staff

Revenue goes to raises, additional teachers

The Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees approved the district's $776.6 million 2013-14 budget June 27, restoring nearly 300 classroom teachers and campus personnel and providing for a district-wide salary increase.

"We went back to the principals and laid out our plan, and they were unanimously in favor of the support they were going to get back at their campus," Superintendent Mark Henry said. "Our goal was to make sure we're competitive salary-wise and to spend the money to restore some cuts, and I think we've achieved that."

Additional state funding

Because of the uncertainty of school funding and the state legislative session, the district adopted the budget in late June, a few weeks after the legislature passed Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1025, which provide $3.7 billion for public education during the next two years.

"The board is very pleased the legislature found a way to replace some of the money they had cut in the past two years," board president Bob Covey said. "It's an affirmation to the work we've been doing with the legislature to see them finally understanding the need we have in Cy-Fair ISD."

For the 2013-14 school year, CFISD will receive an additional $37.6 million—or 10.9 percent compared to current law—and in 2014-15 the district will receive an additional 15 percent, or $52.6 million.

"[In the past few years] we had the changing of the state's testing and accountability system, combined with the reduction of millions of dollars in state funding which made it difficult for Cy-Fair," Henry said. "Our teachers have continued to perform very well, but it does take a shot on morale when you have to do more with less."

Restoring the cuts

About $16 million of the new budget will go to the teacher salary increase, as one of the budget goals is to provide the highest starting teacher salary of districts in the area.

"Our goal was to provide a starting teacher salary of $50,000 in 2014-15 with a starting salary of $48,000 in 2013-14," said Stuart Snow, associate superintendent for business and financial services. "The average increase for teachers will be nearly 4 percent with 89 percent of our teachers receiving a salary increase of more than 4 percent."

For the 2012-13 school year, starting teachers at CFISD made $46,325 annually, which was higher than other area districts such as Houston, Katy, Klein and Spring ISDs, according to the Texas Association of School Administrators. However, CFISD ranks third compared to more than five area districts in the five-year salary range and second in the 10-year range.

"We have to do what's necessary to attract top talent and, clearly, management has to look down the road," trustee Tom Jackson said. "I commend [the administration] on thinking of advancing the starting salary to bring talent in the doors."

Classroom help

The new budget provides for hundreds of additional teachers and campus personnel such as instructional specialists and counselors.

"The bottom line is the principals were thrilled to add these positions back," Henry said. "The STAAR test is much more difficult [than TAKS], and it came at the same time we had to reduce staff."

At least four English Language Arts teachers will be added at all secondary campuses, which will assist in reducing class sizes and give teachers more time to provide feedback.

"We wanted to make sure they have time to read and evaluate [their students' papers], but also we wanted time for them to meet and strategize and see how we can improve," Henry said.

The budget calls for 48 new instructional specialists, which means there will be two at each elementary campus—one for science and math and the other for social studies and language arts.

"They'll help coordinate lesson plans so the information that the students are getting is equal," Henry said. "They'll help lead that group of teachers in those subject areas with lesson plans and research."

Additionally, the 2013-14 budget brings back the district's late buses at the middle schools, providing students an opportunity to stay late for tutoring or extracurricular activities.

"I love the provision for late buses," trustee Christine Hartley said. "It's not only a convenience for parents, but they are key in keeping students on track and getting them involved."

The budget provides $1.7 million for the district's police department—formed at the start of the 2012-13 school year—for an additional 28 personnel.

"With the additional money and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, we felt it was important to increase the police presence around the elementary and middle schools," Henry said.

The extra money will provide for 21 new police officers.

"Our goal is to get an officer-to-student ratio of 1 per 1,000 students, but this will take us to 90 officers," said police chief Alan Bragg.

The district's tax rates—proposed to remain unchanged—are set to be adopted in September or October.



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