Saturday, June 27, 2015

School Districts' Needs vs Wants

Later this year, the Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments from attorneys representing over 600 Texas school districts who claim they cannot properly educate Texas school children because the State does not provide enough money.

As a retired teacher who taught in 4 Texas public school districts over 30 years, I know first-hand that “money” does not equal “learning.” 

Yet, Texas School Boards and Superintendents seem to always be screaming that the answer to low performing schools is more tax dollars.

Some offer complex explanations of how items from testing requirements to unfunded mandates drain the districts’ budgets – so much so - that hiring classroom teachers only occurs if funds are left over. 

But could there be a much simpler explanation?

Something as basic as “needs vs wants”?

Did Lt Governor Patrick  hit the nail on the head when he was quoted as saying:
I am proud of the Texas Senate for uniting to produce a conservative, responsible, state budget that will sufficiently fund our state’s needs over the next biennium, while providing $3.8 billion in necessary tax relief to the businesses and property owners of Texas.” 
The Texas Senate figured a way to fund the “needs” of Texans and cut taxes. Why can't 600+ Texas school districts figure it out?

Look closer at Patrick’s statement. Notice the two words: conservative and needs.

The Texas Senate budgeted for the “needs” of Texans, NOT for the “wants” of every Legislator or school superintendent.

That is the true fiscal difference between liberals and conservatives. 

Conservatives believe taxpayer  money should only be collected for “needs” that only government can provide, (roads, schools, military, etc.) while liberals believe they are ENTITLED to taxpayers supplying their “wants” (day care, health care, cell phones, etc.)

But so many education leaders are “liberals” these days,  that often student “needs” and district “wants” are  purposely mingled. 

To prove the point, I tried a little experiment: comparing the spending habits of two public officials – a conservative who believes taxpayers should only fund the “needs” of government vs a liberal who believes taxpayers should be paying more to provide for “wants.”

I selected two public officials from my area who were both new to their offices –

                    Dan Patrick 

      Texas Lt Governor
Took office  1/13/2015 


School Superintendent 
Harris County
Took Office 12/1/14 

I filed public information requests to find out how each official had spent public funds on "wants" vs "needs" from 1/1/15 thru 6/1/15.

Was there a significant difference? I will let you decide.

First – Office Needs

Both men were provided the same fully furnished office space their predecessors had used.

Liberal (Colbert) – Hired a decorator and went shopping with the taxpayers’ money. Chose the new, modern style furnishings complete with a custom refrigerator. Gave the previous furnishingsto his newly hired assistant, Jimmy Wynn, for use in his new office.

Lt Governor
School Superintendent

Desk                                        2,998.21
Serving Cart                           2,548.08
Custom Refrigerator             1,971.74
Conference Table                 4,267.82
End Tables(3)                       4,509.31
Executive Chair                       966.46
Conference Chairs (6)        3,002.16
Guest Chairs (2)                   1,837.29
Sofa                                         1,857.02
Board Room Seating(10)   3,823.50
Board Room Buffet             1,697.06
Board Room Cart                2,423.01
Shutters                                 6,375.00
Picture(1)/Plants(3)           1,500.00
Chrome Coat Rack                 315.00
Freight                                   1,175.95
Installation                          2,732.00
Design Fee                              850.00
New Wall Paper                  2,475.00
New Lighting                       3,193.00
   Total   $   0.00  

 Total    $  50,517.61

Second – Salary

Conservative (Patrick) – 2nd most powerful person
                                                    in the State.

Liberal (Colbert) – Oversees approximately
                                         1,000 employees


Lt Governor
School Superintendent

$  600 per month

$  16,250 per month

Third – Cell Phone

Conservative (Patrick) – The Senate does not 
                                                     provide cell phones.

Liberal (Colbert) – New equipment plus 
                                         monthly allowance.

Lt Governor
School Superintendent


Equipment                    540.91
Monthly Allowance       75.00

Fourth – Gov't Issued Credit Card

Conservative (Patrick) – The Senate does not 
                                                     issue credit cards.

Liberal (Colbert) – School district credit card.
 Charged for travel; taking board members, district employees, consultants and vendors out for meals; technology supplies.

Lt Governor
School Superintendent



School District MasterCard                                    
Chilosos’s Taco House                  20.75
Best Buy                                         324.95
Shady Grove                                   38.48
Schlotzsky’s                                     12.19
Reale’s Pizza                                   66.77
Courtyard by Marriott                769.88
Champions Restaurant                 24.65
Shade Houston                               56.25
Laurenzo’s Grille Dello                 44.62
Laurenzo’s Grille Dello                 53.19
Capital Visitor Parking                   8.00
Lola Houston                                 20.52
Maggiano’s Houston                    69.26
Chick-Fil-A Houston                    10.15
Rudy’s Country Store                     8.15
Reale’s Pizza                                   10.97
Green Mesquite BBQ                    16.33
Marriott Austin                             26.82
Marriott Austin                             25.82
Marriott Austin                           553.61
Babin’s Katy                                   42.68
Chick-Fil-A Houston                    13.85
Shady Grove                                   17.56
Schlotzsky’s                                    12.19
Capital Grill                                    11.14
Shade Houston                             44.97
Shade Houston                             37.48
Embassy Suites Austin               20.00
Total              0.00
      Total                    2,361.23
Is there really a difference in the way liberals and conservatives spend public dollars?

This simple experiment seems to show there is.

Do taxpayers work hard to pay their school district taxes because the superintendent “wants”  a custom refrigerator for his office?

Do taxpayers work hard to pay their school district taxes because the superintendent “wants” to use his school district credit card to dine out with his assistants?

Is a school superintendent ENTITLED to plush office furnishings and a tax funded expense account?

That is for you to decide.

But the real  multi-billion dollar question is:

 If the 600+ school districts which are suing the taxpayers for more money would budget as the Texas Senate did – fund “needs” and leave out the “wants” – would they have enough money to educate our kids?

They won't know unless they try.


 If you would like to let Lt Governor Patrick know how much you appreciate his respect for our hard earned tax dollars, you may contact his comment line at 512-463-5342 or  email:  

If you would like to let Superintendent Colbert know what you think of his spending habits with public funds, you may contact him at 713-696-0715 or email: 

Colleen Vera


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