Fort Bend ISD trustee Jim Rice is serving as the Texas Association of School Boards president for the 2020-21 year—a role in which he said he will advocate for the betterment of public education.

Through his work at the TASB, at the FBISD board of trustees and as chair of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce’s Education Division, Rice dedicates a large part of his life to informing himself and others about the importance of education, he said.

“The more that you know and understand about how our community works—from public education, to municipal and state and national government, to our judicial system, to our health and human services that are available in the county—and how you can help, I just felt called to do that,” he said.

Rice will serve as the TASB president during the 87th Texas Legislature, during which representatives from the organization will lobby for or against bills related to public education as directed by TASB members, Rice said.

Heading into the legislative session, Rice said he is focused on ensuring public school funding. During the 86th legislative session in 2019, lawmakers passed House Bill 3, which in part restricted how much property tax growth a school district can take advantage of to 2.5%, saying the state would make up the difference.

Now, as the state faces a $4.8 billion shortfall in revenue caused in part by shrinking sales tax revenue during the coronavirus pandemic, Rice said he fears the state may not be able to fund public education at the level it promised. Rice said while he thinks state lawmakers should remove the 2.5% cap on property tax revenue, he believes it will likely stay in place.

“The state will probably dip partially into its Rainy Day Fund. They won’t fully fund education, and most school districts will be forced to make cuts or possibly ask the public to support a new increase in their maintenance and operation tax rate,” Rice said.

Rice was elected to the FBISD board of trustees in 2010. Along with his wife, Rice has lived in Sugar Land for 40 years, and each of his three children graduated from FBISD. Outside of his work as a trustee, Rice is the founder of Rice & Gardner, a design and construction contract management firm.

Rice said he understands the community’s frustration with public education during the coronavirus pandemic, but he said FBISD administration has worked hard to navigate through these unprecedented times.

“We’re all human,” Rice said. “If I wasn’t on the school board, I’d be critical of us, too. But it’s extremely difficult.”

Rice’s term on the board expires in 2022. He said when the time comes, he will have to seriously consider running for re-election.

“I tell people, ‘Look, when you get elected to the school board, you’re not going to be on the board forever, but while you are, you need to stand and make a positive difference in the lives of all the children,’” Rice said.