Kronda Thimesch said she will seek re-election for Lewisville ISD board of trustees Place 1.
She will run against Sandra Weinstein in the election on May 5.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Thimesch a series of questions about her candidacy. Her written responses, edited for publication style, are below.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing Lewisville ISD?
A significant issue for Lewisville ISD is state funding. Formulas for calculating funding for Texas public schools have not been updated since the mid-1980s. There has been no adjustment for the cost of living. Additional money given to public schools has been for new students moving into the state but has not been adjusted for inflation. Every year enough new students enter Texas public education to equal the entire student population of Fort Worth ISD.
LISD’s primary focus should be on our students and their best achievement. I am proud of the work from our students and teachers in LISD. As a district that continues to excel as an educational institution, we must move forward with our goals of exceeding improvement goals. We must be intentional in our efforts and work towards the individual goals for each student. With one-third of our LISD student population at or below the poverty level and $35.5 million going back to the state in recapture, our end goal has to remain the success of each student in the district. I would like to see a collaboration between the state and school districts on addressing school finance.
LISD has known for several years we would become a recapture district. As a result we have been reviewing our programs, staffing models and contracts to ensure that we are as efficient as possible with our tax dollars. One way LISD looks to save money is by partnering with other school districts for bulk pricing discounts on products and services.
What are your plans to fix this issue?
There is not a simple, easy or fast fix for public-school funding issues. There are multiple pieces to addressing the issue and it affects everyone in the state of Texas. One piece is educating our community on how school finance works—an important next step, as this is an issue that affects our communities, taxpayers and students. LISD needs to work with our community members to develop a better understanding of school finance and how it works in the state of Texas. The LISD school board has lowered the tax rate each year for the last several years and has refinanced bond debt, saving millions of dollars in interest payments.
Another piece is working with our elected officials in Austin; working with our representatives on issues that affect our students in the district. I have made and continue to make regular trips to Austin for issues related to public education and school finance. Having an ongoing dialogue both in and out of session is important as policies are being formulated now as we look toward the start of the 86th legislative session next year. I have been attending Senate education hearings as plans are being made to address multiple issues affecting public schools, and strengthening relationships with elected officials and staff in Austin has been an intentional direction of LISD administration and the board. I plan to continue those efforts.
If elected, what will be your top priorities?
My top priority will be student achievement. I am proud of the work of our students and teachers in LISD. As a district that continues to excel as an educational institution we must move forward with our goals of exceeding improvement goals. We must be intentional in our efforts and work towards the individual goals for each student.
Community partnerships will also be a focus. These partnerships should be a two-way dialogue between businesses, industry leaders and LISD. What are the needs of the 21st century workforce? This is a question we want to continually ask. LISD partners with businesses to ensure that our students are graduating with the skills and education that they need to be successful after graduation. Partnerships also include real-word learning opportunities in the classroom for students, allowing them to put practical applications of math, physics, science and technology into use when working on current real-world opportunities.
What are your plans to address the district’s declining enrollment?
LISD must continue to improve the community’s understanding of all the great things going on within our district’s 127 square miles.
We also need to understand the issues affecting our district’s declining enrollment and where we have opportunities to increase enrollment in our schools. LISD was a fast-growth school district in the 1990s and early 2000s as the cities within our district quickly grew. Over time several of the cities have been built out or slowed in their development growth after the market crash in 2008. Families that moved in and raised their children continue to live in their communities. There is not turnover in those neighborhoods where new families move in and replenish our schools with young students. The decline in birth rates over the last decade has been a statewide trend in Texas. Currently there is a large student population “wave” in the ninth and 10th grades. Eighth graders and younger have a lower birth population which means fewer students in classes.
Focusing on the school choices available in LISD will grow opportunities for our students and families. The new Donald Elementary STEM Academy opening this fall has had significant interest from families currently in LISD and others attending other school programs. Polser Elementary will open as our second STEM academy in 2019-20. Career Center East expansion and the soon-to-be-built career center on the west side of the district will see significantly more opportunities for our students. Fall 2018 Lewisville High School will begin a firefighting program; students from all five high schools can apply to the program. We have multiple [schools]with Spanish dual language programs. LISD has multiple programs that expand the student’s opportunity to grow, including the gifted and talented program, AVID, STEM programs robotics, special-ed programs, fine arts, etc.
What are your thoughts about LISD becoming a Robin Hood district?
It is important that we understand how school finance works in the state of Texas. “Robin Hood” is a concept where money is taken from the rich and given to the poor. Where taxpayers believe property-wealthy districts give money to support poor or rural school districts—that is something most of us would support, educating all of our almost 5.4 million students in the state of Texas—however, that is not what happens. Money is not taken from property-rich districts and given to poorer school districts. The funds are “recaptured” and put into the state’s general fund with no strings attached. There is currently no way of tracking where the money goes or what it is used for within the state budget. It does not go back into funding for districts who need it.
The public school finance system in the state of Texas is broken, and the can has been kicked down the road for too long. It is time for serious consideration to be given to the state funding and finance formulas. Compounding the issues are rising property values in North Texas, with increases only benefiting the local school districts for one year. The year after, the state funding formulas reduce the amount of funding given back to the district, or, as in the case of LISD, the state is at a point where they cannot legally reduce our funding any more and the district then becomes a “recapture” district. In the 2018-19 [school year]it is projected that LISD will give $35.5 million back to the state.