Men's Breakfast Report, April 2012

The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, April 14th with Karin Holacka, Superintendent of Brazosport Independent School District. 

Karin grew up in a small town in East Texas.  Her parents both worked at unskilled jobs but stressed the value of education.  She was the first of her family to graduate from college.  Her interest in education was apparent from age five when she told her Sunday school teacher to sit down and that she would teach the class.  After a few years of teaching she went back to school and received her masters degree in administration.  She became an assistant principal and gradually rose in the ranks of administration.  Before she was recruited to Brazosport she was an assistant superintendent at Keller ISD near Fort Worth, where she was in charge of thirty-seven schools.  The school district was growing, so she was in charge of building some new schools, a main difference from the situation in  Brazosport.  The week she was recruited to Brazosport she was defending her Ph.D. thesis, so it was a busy week indeed. 

Karin made a presentation on the upcoming bond election.  Brazosport ISD gets money from property taxes and state funding.  Since Brazosport ISD is considered a property- rich district, it must transfer a portion of operating budget property taxes to the state.  Taxes used to repay bonds, however, do not have to be shared.  The state imposed a cap on operational property taxes which the voters can raise in an election, but the state gets a portion of any increased taxes.  Therefore the only prudent way to get increased funding from local tax payers is with a bond issue.  The bond money is to be used over the seven years of the bond for capital expenditures.  The main expenditures will be to repair and replace outdated equipment, repair some roofs and update technology such as classroom computers.  The state has mandated increased use of technology and computers in instruction but has not provided any funds to implement the mandate.  The state will no longer provide textbooks since books can now be provided online.   If the bond is not passed, most of these expenditures will have to come out of the operating budget.  This is scheduled to decrease next year because of reduced state support.  Since eighty-five percent of the budget goes for salaries, this will require cuts in programs, laying off teachers and larger class sizes, and closing some schools.  The bond is for seven years so it will not be a long term loan for short term benefits.  Brazosport ISD has the second lowest tax rate of any district in the county, and the increased taxes to fund this bond will leave us still in this position. 

The student composition of BISD is changing.  The district has about 12,000 students in all grades.  The enrollment has decreased by about 700 over the last ten years.  Since the state provides about $5000 per student, this impacts the budget.  Also, ten years ago about forty percent of the students were poor, as defined by eligibility for reduced price meals.  Now, fifty-nine percent are poor.  The decline in students is almost entirely among the white students.  There are various reasons for this.  First, the aging of the white population means that fewer of the white families have school-age students.  Second, many more students are going to private schools and are being home schooled.  Third, many of the professional people that Dow hires are choosing to live in the northern part of the county and commute to Brazosport. 

Juan Zapata, a young policeman guest, provided insight on this problem.  He has two children who will be entering school in a couple of years.  He is considering moving to the northern part of the county, Pearland or some other northern city.  He perceives that the schools are better there than the Brazosport schools and that the city amenities are better.  These would be worth the higher property values, higher taxes and long commute times and expense.  Since this may be typical of younger people, Brazosport has a problem in attracting younger people that can lead the community.

As usual, the men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast.  The next meeting will be Saturday, May 12.