PISD spending greater than average, benefits
Doug Otto is superintendent of the Plano Independent
By DOUG OTTO
What should a quality education cost? What is a quality education?
How should it be measured? These and similar questions are legitimate
and thought-provoking, and deserve comprehensive answers. Plano school
district trustees, through numerous publications and open meetings,
frequently address these questions and others like them.
When critics of the district are provided with an open forum in the
newspaper, however, district staff who are charged with running schools
efficiently and effectively are put at a disadvantage. Though we do not
intend to spend our time responding to negative opinion pieces, we felt
that the public deserved to have more than a repeatedly one-sided
version of the "facts" and how they could be interpreted.
It has been stated that PISD spends more than most large (with more
than 25,000 students) districts. We do. We direct money where our
patrons have indicated they want money spent, where it makes the most
difference to our students: toward the classroom, toward instructional
support and toward student services. According to the 1998-99 Texas
Benchmarks Report of budget data from all districts in the state, we
budget $5,553 per student in local operating costs. The statewide
average for districts with more than 25,000 students is $4,680 -- a
difference of $873 per student. Where is that difference?
*PISD spends $3,490 per student on direct classroom instructional
costs compared to $2,861 in districts greater than 25,000 students -- a
difference of $629. So why the difference? 1. PISD's students enjoy a
substantially lower teacher-student ratio than other districts our size.
2. PISD's teachers earn higher salaries than other districts our size.
3. PISD's classrooms contain a comprehensive technology package to
support the curriculum. These items account for most of the difference.
*PISD spends $327 per student on instructionally related costs
compared to $163 for districts with more than 25,000 -- a difference of
$164. These costs can be attributed to: 1. Salaries paid to teachers for
professional development, lengthening their school year beyond that of
colleagues in similar districts; 2. Costs for media and library
services; and 3. The costs of developing and updating curriculum to meet
the needs of today's students.
*PISD spends $285 per student on pupil services such as health
services (employing registered nurses at each campus) compared to $236
for other districts our size -- a difference of $29.
The differences in these three categories add up to $822 per student,
approximately the difference in the above-mentioned cost-per-student for
Plano ISD as compared with other districts our size.
What do these expenditures mean to our children? PISD provides a
comprehensive curriculum. We do not concentrate instruction on those
areas necessary to pass the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills).
These include: 1. Providing a well-rounded fine arts program in
kindergarten through 12th grade; 2. Providing a comprehensive,
integrated technology package to each classroom and each teacher; 3.
Providing a full-fledged program of academic and extracurricular
competition to broaden our students' experiences; 4. Providing
registered nurses in every school; 5. Providing a total safety and
security package for each school; and 6. Maintaining our facilities so
they are inviting, clean and safe. These are ingredients that our
parents and community have told us they want in a quality educational
Here is some additional information which might help clarify the
*In contrast to the majority of Texas school districts, PISD receives
only about 5 percent of its revenue from the state, thus putting nearly
all of the cost of educating children on local taxpayers.
*PISD's administrative cost ratio, defined by the Legislature, is 5.6
percent compared to a statewide average of 8.5 percent and a ratio for
all districts with more than 25,000 of 7.3 percent.
*PISD pays teachers an average of $36,937 compared to the state
average of $34,357 ($35,582 for districts with more than 25,000
students, based on 1998 figures.) This difference is designed to ensure
that Plano attracts and retains the best teachers in the state.
*PISD's ratio of central office administrators is 0.5 per 1,000
students compared to 1.1 for all districts with more than 25,000 and 0.6
for districts with more than 25,000 students.
*PISD's tax rate is $1.5395 compared to a statewide average of $1.538
and $1.563 for all districts with more than 25,000. The PISD rate
includes nearly 23 cents which is dedicated to recapture and must be
sent to the state.
*PISD's student-teacher ratio averages 14.1 to 1 as compared to 16.3
to 1 in other districts with more than 25,000.
It is true the PISD tax rate for 1999-2000 likely will increase. For
this upcoming year, recapture will increase by about $10 million (to $55
million), and the local taxpayers will be paying the cost of the
well-deserved teacher pay raise, totaling about $10.5 million. In
addition, we have opened three new schools: Plano West Senior High, Rice
Middle School and Centennial Elementary. PISD is a rapidly growing
school district that has continued to maintain high standards and a
strong public educational system even as it grows. In future opinion
pieces, we will provide information about student academic achievement
and the various ways success can be measured.