Mumford ISD: Learning more, spending less provides model for Texas schools

Mumford Independent School District, a Robertson County district termed by some as “not quite in no man’s land,” is one of the most cost efficient in the state spending $5,571 compared to statewide average of more than $11,600.

Serving the farming community of Mumford, an unincorporated city with a population of 170, the district’s enrollment of almost 600 is largely transfer students from surrounding areas drawn to the district, in part, because of Mumford ISD’s strong performance record which includes annual “Exemplary” ratings from the Texas Education Agency.

The Mumford Model: Better School Districts Through Efficiency, a recently-released report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Local Governance, attributes Mumford ISD’s success to three key factors: less administration, less bureacracy and ultimately a lower cost of education. Being a district that saves its money has led to $14 million in cash reserves and no debt.

Mumford ISD Superintendent Pete Bienski says the lack of debt comes from a philosophy that you don’t build it if you don’t have the money to pay for it.

And Mumford is not lacking in facilities or amenities as seen with its computer labs, playgrounds, gymnasiums and other athletic facilities.

Less administration, Bienski explains, means “lots of people wearing lots of hats.” As superintendent, he is one of two administrators who also serves as the contractor for building projects. The other administrator, a dean of students, is also a counselor.

With 13 other non-teaching staff (custodial, maintenance and cafeteria workers) added to administrative and professional support staff, Mumford has 21 non-teaching staff members. Meanwhile, 37 teachers and 10 educational aides bring the teaching staff to 47. Most Texas school districts have close to a 1:1 ratio of non-teaching to teaching staff members.

Less administration also means letting teachers teach and the results speak for themselves. Per the TPPF report:

One hundred percent of Mumford students graduated high school in the Class of 2012, versus 87.7 percent statewide. Seventy-five percent of Mumford’s students were considered “college ready” in both Mathematics and English Language Arts in the Class of 2012, versus 57 percent statewide. The Mumford Class of 2012 also scored better than the statewide average on the SAT, at 1459 versus 1422, and Hispanic students averaged even higher at 1463.

Mumford’s impressive results are particularly surprising given that 75.9 percent of its students are listed as economically disadvantaged, much higher than the statewide average of 60.4 percent. Mumford ISD is a living example that student performance does not depend on high levels of spending.

Click here to read the full report.

The bottom line: high levels of educational funding do not automatically translate into increased academic performance. And competition, a concept feared by most public school districts, can bring both greater educational experiences for students as well as increased fiscal responsibility in school districts’ use of taxpayer funds.

Mumford ISD proves better educational outcomes are possible when top-heavy, expensive bureaucracies are replaced with student-focused teaching. Mumford ISD provides a lesson from which other Texas ISDs could learn.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As also a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and News Radio 1400 KTEM, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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