Contradictions from PISD

During the board meeting on May 4th, 1999, President John Muns, trying to justify the new triple start schedule, made this statement:

"We have a low cost per student compared with the rest of the state."

Four months later, the Superintendent, Dr. Doug Otto, made this confession to the effect: "We are spending more than other districts and proud of it." He was apparently under tremendous pressure to respond to the facts presented by this author in newspaper columns.

Publication date - Wednesday, September 8, 1999

My Opinion

PISD spending greater than average, benefits students

Doug Otto is superintendent of the Plano Independent School District.


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 system.

Here is some additional information which might help clarify the spending picture:

*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.