TEA Snapshot data offers view of Bell County ISDs (TX)

Newly released Texas Education Agency Snapshot: School District Profiles provide valuable district-generated data offering insight as to the performance and spending trends of our state’s 1,200+ school districts. These latest reports document the 2013-2014 school year. Their review can suggest to Bell County and other Texas parents, employers and engaged citizens just how much “bang” taxpayers are getting as their hard-earned bucks are increasingly funneled into the state’s public education system.

Below are key findings from Bell County’s four largest school districts. With the numbers of teachers to non-teachers and pay scale differentials, dollars spent inside v. outside the classroom and dropout plus college admissions readiness stats, these reports offer thought-provoking content.

The full current reports as well as past reports for all other public school districts are available at the TEA website.

As the last decades have seen a skyrocketing in Texas public education spending, it’s critical that taxpayers understand how their dollars are being spent. The TEA provides superintendent base salary information, but what about the other forms of executive compensation – expense accounts, retirement contributions, car and housing allowances and/or bonuses – that superintendent’s routinely enjoy?

Additional information on these “perks” is available to any Texas resident via the Texas Public Information Act. As public information, a request for a superintendent’s employment contract and any addenda or extensions can be filed with the government entity (i.e., school district). Some agencies may have a standardized form, but a simple letter can produce the same result.

And then there’s those bond elections voters so often rush to support. The ones in which ed industry personnel pass off cliché as innovative, insightful thought. For example, it’s always for the children, about taking our community to the next level or creating 21st century learning environments.

School administrators, civic leaders and even local media never address the consequences of these elections. Never discussed is existing debt or the fact that the dollar amounts touted are principal only – that they don’t reflect the 40 percent or so interest that will also be part of the bond package under consideration. Or what other local government debt comprises a community’s total fiscal picture.

The Texas Bond Review Board, however, provides important information about local government debt including school districts’ long-term bond debt. It’s a great resource as more fiscally responsible taxpayers come to understand the dangerous debt levels Texans now face thanks to decades of voter-backed government spending sprees.

Belton ISD

Belton ISD reported a total of 10,305 students for the 2013-2014 school year. The district’s four-year graduation rate was 98.4 percent. Of the 50.7 percent of students who took at least one of the college admissions tests, only 31.8 percent were at or above the criterion score.

The Snapshots offer a view of how education dollars are distributed. Based on the district’s numbers, Belton ISD has more non-teachers than teachers who only comprise 46.4 percent of the district’s total staff. An average teacher salary of $47,669 is $9,661 less than “professional” support staff, $23,742 less than average school administrative salaries and $50,156 less than central administrative salaries.

It’s also noteworthy that a 13.9 percent teacher turnover rate is listed with 31.9 percent of teachers having five or fewer years of experience. The average years of experience are 11.4. Meanwhile, the number of students per teacher is 15.2 while students per total staff are 7.

Belton lists total revenue per pupil as $9,424 though its total instructional expenditures per pupil are $4,330 or 46 percent of total revenue. In other words, the bulk of children’s education dollars are being allocated outside the classroom.

In light of the Snapshot data, it’s also worthwhile to note that TEA lists the 2013-2014 base salary for Belton’s superintendent, Susan Kincannon, at $165,000.

And per the Texas Bond Review Board, taxpayers are also on the hook for Belton ISD’s nearly $212 million ($211,973,852) in current bond debt. This represents $131,929,996 principal, $80,043,855 interest. This amount also includes $103,459,875 for the advertised $55 million bond package approved in 2012. Unadvertised was the nearly $50 million in interest that particular debt issuance generated.

Copperas Cove ISD

Copperas Cove ISD reported a total of 8,249 students for the 2013-2014 school year. The district’s four-year graduation rate was 94.1 percent leaving a 5.9 percent dropout rate. Of the 59 percent of students who took at least one of the college admissions tests, only 19.3 percent were at or above the criterion score.

Based on the district’s numbers, Copperas Cove ISD has more non-teachers than teachers who only comprise 47.8 percent of the district’s total staff. An average teacher salary of $47,843 is $11,747 less than “professional” support staff, $23,326 less than average school administrative salaries and $52,334 less than central administrative salaries.

An 18.9 percent teacher turnover rate is listed with 40.5 percent of teachers having five or fewer years of experience and the average years of experience are 9.3. Meanwhile, the number of students per teacher is 14.3 while students per total staff are 6.8.

Copperas Cove lists total revenue per pupil as $9,418 though its total instructional expenditures per pupil are $4,591 or 48.7 percent of total revenue. Again we see the bulk of children’s education dollars being allocated outside the classroom.

TEA lists Copperas Cove Superintendent Joseph Burns’ base 2013-2014 salary at $173,154.

The Texas Bond Review Board site shows Copperas Cove’s long-term bond debt at $32 million ($32,119,400).  This represents $26,638,51 principal, $5,480,890 interest.

Killeen ISD

Killeen ISD reported a total of 41,336 students for the 2013-2014 school year. The district’s four-year graduation rate was 86.7 percent leaving a 13.3 percent dropout rate. Of the 56.6 percent of students who took at least one of the college admissions tests, only 18.7 percent were at or above the criterion score.

Based on the district’s numbers, Killeen ISD has more non-teachers than teachers who only comprise 47.4 percent of the district’s total staff. An average teacher salary of $49,610 is $8,782 less than “professional” support staff, $23,715 less than average school administrative salaries and $38,679 less than central administrative salaries.

A 14.5 percent teacher turnover rate is listed with 39.6 percent of teachers having five or fewer years of experience. The average years of experience are 10.2. Meanwhile, the number of students per teacher is 15 while students per total staff are 7.1.

Killeen lists total revenue per pupil as $8,944 though its total instructional expenditures per pupil are $4,829 or 54 percent of total revenue. Of Bell County’s largest districts, this is the only one in which at least slightly more of children’s education dollars are allocated inside rather than outside the classroom.

TEA lists Killeen Superintendent Robert W. Muller’s base 2013-2014 salary at $256,772.

The Texas Bond Review Board site shows Killeen’s long-term bond debt at $99 million ($99,229,050). This represents $78,505,000 principal, $20,724,050 interest.

Temple ISD

Temple ISD reported a total of 8,644 students for the 2013-2014 school year. The district’s four-year graduation rate was 86.8 percent leaving a 13.2 percent dropout rate. Of the 40.5 percent of students who took at least one of the college admissions tests, only 27.8 percent were at or above the criterion score.

Based on the district’s numbers, Temple ISD has slightly more teachers than non-teachers. Teachers comprise 52 percent of the district’s total staff. An average teacher salary of $45,250 is $7,890 less than “professional” support staff, $20,586 less than average school administrative salaries and $45,856 less than central administrative salaries.

A 24.7 percent teacher turnover rate is listed with 38.5 percent of teachers having five or fewer years of experience. The average years of experience are 10.5. Meanwhile, the number of students per teacher is 14.5 while students per total staff are 7.5.

Temple lists total revenue per pupil as $9,530 though its total instructional expenditures per pupil are $4,649 or 48.8 percent of total revenue. Once again, the bulk of children’s education dollars are being allocated outside the classroom.

TEA lists Temple Superintendent Robin Battershell’s base 2013-2014 salary at $197,200.

The Texas Bond Review Board shows Temple’s long-term bond debt at $122 million ($122,223,242). This represents $85,959,429 principal, $36,263,813 interest.

It also includes the 2011 bond election for an advertised $55 million package, a package that with the unadvertised $30 million interest actually represents nearly $85 million in long-term debt.

The advertised $135 million package TISD is currently preparing to put before voters will actually represent, with interest, closer to $200 million in new debt. Its passage will visibly more than double the district’s debt, but when interest – up to perhaps $55 million – is quietly added, the district will functionally have committed taxpayers to nearly tripling their debt obligation.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Watchdog Arena, Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, 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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