Written Feb 13 2001

I would like add my voice to the other parents (and taxpayers) here in the Grapevine-Collyvile ISD (GCISD) system who are asking you reconsider how Texas Educational Funding is done.

I feel that I have a unique point of view on the situation. As the son, son-in-law, cousin and husband of educators, I am feel very close to the Texas educational system. I know the benefits that could be achieved by ALL teachers having more money and equipment.

I took a very circuitous path through the educational system. Up through 8th grade, I attended a progressive, modern school system in Fairbanks, Alaska. Then, because my parents moved, I attended high school in a Texas district that would have benefitted from the intent of Robin Hood plan. I attended (and was valedictorian of) Rising Star High School in the Rising Star Independent School District, of Rising Star, Texas (north of Brownwood). I have first hand experience knowing that providing quality education to rural districts is a problem.

I will tell you that I feel that I was "cheated" out of an education. In 6th grade (Alaska), I had the opportunity to participate in a self-paced math class wherein I finished workbooks for Math that covered everything from grades 6-12. Moving to Texas, and this small district, I was forced to re-take the subjects I had already mastered.
High School Math was a total loss for me. And, that school didn't have trig, much less calculus. I was severely behind when I got to college engineering. We didn't have Spanish, other than Juan the janitor. Art, choir, theater? No way. I took every class that school had to offer (except band), and they weren't enough to give me what I needed for college. For one thing, because I was repeating stuff I already knew, but beyond that, I wasn't taught how to study, and that really hurt in college.

The thing that really disappointed/affected me was the total lack of quality in the Sciences. As a "geek", rather than an athlete, I was much more interested in the Physics and Chemistry. But, they were being taught by the football coach, whose obvious attentions were somewhere other than ChemLab. He was much more focused on keeping his athletes eligible to play rather than helping a single non-athlete to succeed. Electronics, which I was desperately interested in, wasn't an option.

The desire of Robin Hood would be to attract better teachers, but even if the teachers in small districts were paid $60k-$70k or more per year, you still could not provide the infrastructure that students like myself need(ed). A portion of the problem is small schools do not have enough students to warrant putting together a class in a "special" subject. A school that size is just NOT going to have or dedicate the resources to have separate teachers for a class attended by only 1-2 students. At best, it's an incredible waste of (my)(taxpayer) money.

I firmly believe that a possible solution would be distance education. There's a teacher here in GCISD that is a wonder at government/civics. If those kids there in RSISD could have a tele-conferencing link back to this GCISD classroom, you wouldn't have to pay additional (wasted) salaries in RSISD, but the kids could benefit from quality (and uniform) instruction.

I know that an important portion of the educational experience is one-on-one interaction with the instructor, but there is also an element where the student is limited by heights the instructor can lift them to. At the core of my being, I feel that "Robin Hood" is wrong, even though I understand the desires of the program. I just don't feel that the objectives are being, nor can be accomplished in the smallest of districts.

In 1999, I was presented with the challenge of evaluating the "costs" of taking my children to an educational system outside of Texas. (I have a son with the same "scientist" challenges I had.) Having taken an in-depth look, I felt that the effect on my kids education was going to be too detrimental, and I turned DOWN the out-of-state job (for more money). A portion of that decision then also involved then moving my family from Lubbock to "DFW". As we shopped for schools, we chose Colleyville Heritage HS in the GCISD school system specifically for it's benefits. (Also.. we didn't select a house and then checked out the schools... we found the school we wanted first, and then waited for a house near the school we wanted to come available.) Now, we're hearing that some of the very programs we selected the school for could end up being cut/downsized because of the Robin Hood program!!

So, let me understand. If the very programs that I want for my kids are cut by Robin Hood, and the same programs were/are never available in the small districts, exactly what am I supposed to do to get those programs for my kids? 90% of the issue here is school size. Good, bad, or ugly, a large school can have more "options" for kids than a small school can ever have. Given any amount of money.

Another large problem with "Robin Hood" is that it is not accounting properly for annual inflation. Any program that fails to account for the increase (or decrease) in wealth in an area is wrong. If you don't change the wealth index, you could soon end up calling for equalization payments from those small districts themselves!! As an employer, the rate you have to pay in payroll goes up every year. It's only "fair" that the Wealth Index go up accordingly.

Please take a serious look at how the money from this program is being used. I firmly believe that the money could be put to better use. And, raising the W.I. to $320k would leave more money here in this district, and they can continue to support the "extra" programs that the small school districts won't even contemplate offering because they won't have the numbers of students to warrant the programs.

Stinson Smith
Grapevine TX