Friendswood: School district considers limited open enrollment

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by Hayley Kappes / The Daily News

khou.com

Posted on December 7, 2010 at 11:10 AM

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas — Friendswood school officials are considering making enrollment available to students living outside the school district’s boundaries.

Superintendent Trish Hanks proposed limited open enrollment after learning the state is considering cutting up to $5 billion from educational spending as part of a plan to address a $24 billion budget deficit.

Friendswood school board members in January will begin discussions on the possibility of a tax ratification election and also might approve limited open enrollment as a means to increase revenue, Hanks said.

School districts receive a certain amount per student based on weighted average daily attendance.

The Friendswood district receives $5,050.

School board members rejected open enrollment for this school year, but enrollment has not increased for the past three years since the beginning of the recession, Hanks said.

Friendswood will see a $1.3 million decrease from the state per every billion dollars that legislators cut from education funding, Hanks said.

"If the budget deficit is as high as they say it is, then public education won’t be spared," Hanks said. "There will be no way to make more money unless you have more kids."

Hanks has proposed limiting open enrollment to 10 students per grade level up to 10th grade.

Capping at 10 students per grade wouldn’t require the district to hire new teachers and would generate about $600,000, Hanks said.

Clear Creek Independent School District has never instituted open enrollment but had a policy several years ago that allowed enrollment for children of employees who lived outside the district to attend school, district spokeswoman Elaina Polsen said.

This increased the district’s revenue by $315,000.

The Clear Creek district would lose $8.9 million for every billion dollars the state cuts from education spending, Polsen said.

Galveston, Texas City and Dickinson school districts aren’t considering tax rate elections and have open enrollment policies already in place.

Hitchcock Independent School District Superintendent Mike Bergman said he would propose a tax ratification election to the school board that would ask voters to increase the district’s tax rate by 13 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Hitchcock’s base maintenance and operations tax rate is at the maximum allowed by the state — $1.04 per $100 of assessed property value, which can increase to as much as $1.17 with voter approval.

School districts have two tax rates — the maintenance and operations rate, which covers routine operations, and the interest and sinking fund tax rate, which covers debt approved by voters.

Galveston school officials are hesitant to propose increasing taxes, district spokesman Johnston Farrow said.

Most of the money from a tax increase would go back to the state under the Robin Hood system since Galveston is a property-rich district, Farrow said.

"Galveston is facing competition from charter and private schools," Farrow said. "Schools are going to have to come up with creative ways to attract more students."

This story was brought to you thanks to khou.com’s partnership with The Galveston County Daily News.

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