OPINION COLUMNS

TEA releases preliminary financial accountability ratings

By Ed Sterling | Published Saturday, August 18, 2018
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Some 80 percent of public school districts and charters earned the highest-possible preliminary financial accountability rating, according to figures released Aug. 8 by the Texas Education Agency.

The “superior” ratings were calculated using 15 financial indicators, such as administrative cost expenditures, the accuracy of a district or charter’s financial information submitted to TEA and any financial vulnerabilities or material weaknesses in internal controls, as determined by an external auditor.

Created by the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001, the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas encourages public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes, the TEA said.

Any district or charter wishing to appeal its rating must submit a written appeal with supporting evidence to the TEA by Sept. 10. Final ratings will be released in October.

BAIL LAW CHANGES SOUGHT

Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 7 released a set of proposals to reform the state’s bail system.

Abbott urged the Legislature to pass legislation he named the “Damon Allen Act” in honor of a state trooper who was killed in the line of duty last Thanksgiving Day.

If passed, the bill would tie the setting of bail to community safety concerns. A magistrate would be required to consider the criminal history of a defendant and other relevant information, including impact on law enforcement, when setting bail.

In cases involving either felony or misdemeanor charges of sexual offenses and assault, the setting of bail would be handled by state district judges and their associate judges.

To protect communities from repeat offenders, the bill would add steps to the bail process, such as required notification of various other agencies through the case management system.

REVENUE IS DISTRIBUTED

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 8 announced his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $842.7 million in local sales tax allocations for the month of August.

The amount is 8.2 percent greater than the amount reported in August 2017. The allocations are based on sales made in June by businesses that report tax monthly. For those filing quarterly, the allocations are based on sales made in April, May and June.

EXTRA VIGILANCE IS URGED

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Aug. 8 posted a reminder to all drivers to slow down in school zones and to be aware of children walking to and from school or waiting for buses.

With the new school year beginning, drivers should be especially alert and careful around school buses and to expect an increase in overall traffic, DPS Director Steven McCraw said.

“Motorists who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses put our schoolchildren in harm’s way, and that reckless and irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated by DPS,” McCraw said.

Drivers who illegally pass school buses face fines as high as $1,250 for the first offense. For individuals convicted of that offense more than once, the law allows the individual’s license to be suspended for up to six months, the DPS said.

PAXTON AIMS TO STOP DACA

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Aug. 8 asked a Brownsville U.S. District Court for a nationwide injunction to curtail the issue or renewal of permits under its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while Texas’ multi-state coalition lawsuit, filed in May, is pending.

Created by an Obama administration executive order in 2012, DACA has granted lawful presence and work permits to about 700,000 non-citizens who reside in the United States.

The attorneys general of six other states joined Paxton in the request. All jointly expressed an ultimate goal of having the court declare the entire DACA program unconstitutional. Paxton said he believes DACA is unconstitutional because it took effect without congressional approval and allowed the president “to unilaterally set aside any duly enacted law.”

Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association.

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