Comptroller Says New Online Tool Lets You Compare School Thrift
As state leaders look for places to trim spending underneath a looming budget shortage that could surpass $20 billion, the Texas Comptroller Susan Combs today unveiled a new online tool that she says will allow anyone to rate how well schools are using money.
“In a state as large and diverse as Texas, drawing apples-to-apples comparisons is no easy task,” Combs said in a news release. “What we created is a new kind of report that uses a unique rating system to balance student progress against school spending in an unbiased fashion.”
The Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) was developed with help from education researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, UT-Dallas, Texas A&M University and others.
KUT's Ben Philpott reported last week comparing school efficiency is inherently difficult not only because school districts face unique challenges, but also because they receive such disparate per-pupil funding.
Ray Freeman, with the Equity Center, a school finance think tank, said, “where we get into trouble with efficiency is when you have a state system that’s as inefficient as the current one is. And then you want to tell school districts they need to be more efficient.” Freeman believes the inefficiency is at the state level, because the per student funding amount varies wildly from district to district. Make that pay scale uniform, he said, then, figure out which districts are being efficient. Freeman also worries whether all this talk of efficiency is just code for budget cuts. For instance, not giving schools extra money to educate the thousands of new students who have moved to Texas in the last two years.
Austin ISD received a FAST Rating of 3 out of 5 stars. It ranked "High" in the spending index.