|WELCOME ALIEF ISD VOTERS
Re-Elect Dr. John Hansen
Position 1, Alief ISD Board of Trustees
November 8, 2011
KEEP AN EFFECTIVE TRUSTEE
GOOD SCHOOLS ARE NOT AUTOMATIC!
DID YOU KNOW?
- Alief ISD is now a Recognized District!
(See the Texas Education Agency Web Site
- Alief ISD is one of only five large (over 45,000 students) districts in Texas that is both Recognized and is Meeting the Federal AYP standards!
- Alief ISD now has a high school completion rate
of over 91%!
- Alief ISD has been given a 4.5 Star Fiscal Efficiency Rating by the Texas Comptroller!
(See the Texas Comptroller’s FAST Web Site for details)
- Despite cutbacks in State funding, no Alief ISD employees have been laid off and the tax rate
has been reduced!
- Dr. John Hansen has kept his promises to the Taxpayers of Alief. Let's keep him.
I have spent much of my adult lifetime in the field of education. After completing the coursework for my Ph.D. in Economics at Rice University, I taught at the University of St. Thomas (Houston) and Ohio Wesleyan University. I completed my doctoral dissertation and returned to Houston, where I spent the next six years as a business consultant. I then took a position on the faculty of Houston Baptist University where I wrote several textbooks and textbook supplements in the fields of statistics and corporate finance. After leaving Houston Baptist University, I have been involved in investment management.
ELECTION TO THE BOARD
I was first elected to the Alief ISD Board of Trustees in November 1993 at a time when Alief ISD was just beginning to recover from the effects of the “Oil Crash” of the 1980s. Alief ISD had lost about 30% of its property value from the high point in 1984. The District tax rate had risen from $0.95 to $1.80 in just 8 years. At one point, the District had been forced to borrow money just to pay its payroll on time. Alief taxpayers were in an unhappy mood and demanding that the rise in the tax rate be halted.
In bringing the District back to fiscal health, a concerted effort was needed by both the Board of Trustees and the professional staff to identify unnecessary overhead expenditures and concentrate Alief’s limited resources in its classrooms. I believe I played a key leadership role in bringing this about. In 1994, the Board recruited the Texas Superintendent of the Year, Dr. James Smith to take over as Alief’s Superintendent. Dr. Smith brought a wealth of experience in both business and instructional management to Alief ISD. When Dr. Smith eventually took his retirement, the Board promoted Dr. Louis Stoerner from the position of Deputy Superintendent for Business Affairs to the position of District Superintendent. In his turn, Dr. Stoerner has proven himself to be one of the outstanding Superintendents in the state. With Dr. Stoerner’s retirement in November 2010, the Board of Trustees hired Mr. H.D. Chambers, previously Superintendent of Stafford MSD, as the Alief ISD Superintendent.
While decreasing the tax rate, Alief ISD has funded a major increase in the District’s instructional technology and provided a competitive raise in employee pay in every year prior to 2011-12. Three bond issues have been passed and successfully funded. 17 new schools have been built – within budget and on time. Today the tax rate stands at $1.33 – down from the $1.80 that it was when I came on the Alief Board.
IMPROVEMENT IN STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
In 1993, Alief ISD had already begun to see the major demographic shift that is now obvious to everyone. Without question, these changes in our student population have required Alief ISD to develop many new strategies and programs to deal with the new problems these students brought with them. One of the earliest efforts (which is still in operation) was the Parent Involvement Program - which recognizes that in many families the close parental involvement in the education of the children that once existed, is no longer there. We know that the job of the classroom teacher becomes far more difficult when parents don’t demonstrate their interest in education by their direct involvement, so Alief ISD created a room on each campus to attract parents (called a Parent Center) and hired a cadre of paraprofessionals -called parent educators - whose role it is to help parents see what they need to do to help their children learn.
Various intervention programs have been developed and implemented to provide additional help for students with various types of special needs. In recent years, Alief ISD has increasingly focused on students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) as this has become a larger and larger part of the Alief student population.
Recognizing that students with above average potential also have needs, I successfully pushed for an expanded gifted & talented program. The centerpiece of this is the Alief Institute for Math and Science (AIMS), which provides a challenging instructional program taught only by G-T certified teachers to maximize the achievement of these high potential students. This program is widely recognized as one of Alief ISD’s most successful.
As a result of financial pressures, many Texas school districts have severely reduced or even eliminated their programs in the performing and visual arts. I take great pride in the leadership role that I have played in preserving vibrant arts programs in Alief ISD. In particular, I was directly responsible along with Ms. Paula Smith, the then Coordinator for the Performing Arts in Alief ISD, for the creation of the Alief Jazz Ballet – a student group that is well recognized and highly regarded throughout the Houston region. It remains to this day the only such group sponsored by a Texas school district.
I have long recognized that many students need courses that have direct career applications in order to be adequately motivated. I have pushed during my entire Board tenure for increased and improved offerings in Career and Technology Education (CTE) which is the current term for what used to be referred to as “vocational” education. The Automotive Tech program was dramatically improved and now turns out students capable of ASE certification. The Hotel and Restaurant Management program is directly overseen by the University of Houston Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Students who complete the Alief program can go directly into the hospitality industry after high school or they can enroll in a university level program such as the one offered by the Hilton school. An office management program is offered in cooperation with several local employers who provide co-op opportunities for Alief students. A health careers program is operated in conjunction with the West Houston Medical Center.
Unfortunately, one of the serious limits on the expansion of career education is the number of specific courses currently required by the Texas Legislature for a high school diploma. Currently, all students are required to follow the Recommended Program unless their parents specifically sign an “opt out” form. This Recommended Program is intended to prepare students to enter a four-year liberal arts college program. It is well thought out for that purpose, but it only allows students a total of three elective courses in their entire four years of high school. With only three electives, students on the Recommended Program really can’t pursue any serious CTE programs. That limits the CTE students to those not on the Recommended Program and many of the CTE courses struggle to draw adequate enrollments.
The net result of all of these instructional efforts has been a dramatic rise in the percentage of Alief students showing success on state and national tests. The percentage of Alief students passing the required Texas exams has more than doubled during my tenure on the Board. As a result of systematic encouragement, Alief ISD now has a higher percentage of its students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) exams and the SAT and College Board exams for college entrance than the state average. Despite the high percentage of low-income students in Alief ISD, Alief students now match the state averages for these exams.
ISSUES FOR THE FUTURE
It would be nice to be able to say that all of Alief's problems are now solved and we can all safely go back to sleep. Of course, that is not the case. The biggest single issue facing all Texas school districts in the next 4 years is, without question, funding. The Third Special Session of the Texas Legislature (2006), passed HB 1, which made a number of major changes to Texas school finance. It created a new business receipts tax and committed all of the revenues from this tax to reducing the property taxes levied by school districts. The school Maintenance & Operating (M&O) tax rate was reduced by 1/3 in each school district. I strongly supported this change because I believe Texas has been too dependent on property taxes for the support of its schools. However, the Legislature did not want schools to make a
"profit" from the switch in tax bases, so it placed in the law a "hold-harmless" provision which said that school districts cannot have more funding per student than they had in the 2005-06 school year. So far, I was OK with that. But, it put no time limit on the hold-harmless. So, Texas school districts could never have more funding per student than they had in 2005-06! No matter how much costs increase, school districts can never have any additional revenue. How were we to pay for higher teacher salaries? How were we to pay for higher energy prices? How were we to pay for higher insurance costs? The Legislature left us with no answers.
The 2011 Regular Session of the Texas Legislature finally abolished the “temporary” solution of the 2006 Special Session, but due to the decline in State tax revenues, it did so by reducing funding for public education by $4 billion for the 2011-2013 biennium. In Alief ISD, this means a $22 million reduction in State funding. Since payroll is 89% of our costs of operation, this has forced us to make substantial reductions in the number of positions. As of the last HR report, we have eliminated 211 total positions – including both instructional and non-instructional positions. Because of retirements and resignations, there were sufficient open positions that we were able to accomplish this without any forced layoffs. Every Alief ISD
employee who wanted to keep their job was able to do so. Some had to accept a change in assigned duties, but everyone still at least had a job and an income.
The positions we have eliminated do not come without some pain. We have eliminated many support positions that greatly eased the workload on classroom teachers. We do not know how long we can maintain this before we start to see a decline in student performance. There is very little chance of any improved State funding until at least the 2015 Session of the Legislature. The 2013 Session is almost certainly going to have to give top priority to the Medicaid program. I hear that $8 to 10 billion of new funding for Medicaid must be found. That is not likely to leave much room for improved public education funding.
Unfortunately, this shortfall in state support comes as our percentage of at-risk students continues to rise. This means we must continue to improve student achievement with little or no new money for additional resources. This will not be easy. But, Alief ISD has been able to make good progress in the past despite inadequate funding. In 2010 and 2011 we were rated a “Recognized” district by the Texas Education Agency. This has happened at the same time that other suburban districts such as Spring Branch, Fort Bend and Cypress-Fairbanks have lost their Recognized ratings. Alief ISD is currently meeting the Federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards. Nearly half of the districts in Texas do not currently meet this standard. There are only 5 Texas districts of 45,000 or more students that currently are Recognized and meet Federal AYP standards. Alief ISD is one of those 5. Our high school completion rate is now over 91%. We are very proud of these achievements and we do not intend to allow our funding problems to push us backwards. But, it is a serious challenge to continue this progress.
I believe that the next four years are going to demand Board Members who can work effectively as a team and who have a good grasp of the limits of our financial resources. I believe I have demonstrated that I have these traits. I thank the Alief community for its past support and I ask for your support for another four years to continue my efforts on behalf of you and our community’s children.
Dr. John P. Hansen