May 19, 2006
Shirley J. Neeley, Ed.D
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue, Suite 2-185
Austin, Texas 78701-1402
Dear Commissioner Neeley:
On March 30, 2006, I sent you a letter voicing my strong opposition to the Governor's so-called "65% Rule," and most particularly to the proposal to embed it in the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST), the school district financial accountability system I recommended in my 1999 report, Challenging the Status Quo (ED 4).
During this comment period on your proposed amendments to 19 TAC Chapter 109, Budgeting, Accounting, and Auditing, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules Concerning Financial Accountability Rating System, I wish to reiterate my position on this important topic.
I am adamantly opposed to any unfunded state mandate. This rule is a huge unfunded state mandate, and I am adamantly opposed to it.
I am a staunch supporter of public education in Texas, and I wholeheartedly believe that Texas taxpayers deserve to know how their money is spent, and that it is being spent wisely. Fiscal responsibility is more important now than ever before. This rule, however, sets up a system where a district's demographics, growth patterns, and other conditions beyond their control can result in failure. It will mislead the public and will hamstring good districts with bad public policy.
As I stated before, this 65% Rule does not advance the goal of driving more of every education dollar directly into the classroom, nor is it a true measure of fiscal responsibility! You have heard from school administrators, principals, teachers, educators, and parents from across this state telling you that this rule is not in the best interest of the school children of Texas.
I remain committed to holding our schools accountable for educating our state's most precious resource, our children. And, we must step in swiftly to address mismanagement or wrongdoing where it is found. This rule does none of that.
Therefore, on behalf of educators, parents, and the school children of Texas, I ask you to recognize this for what it is -- bad policy -- and withdraw the proposed rule amendment.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn,