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East Texas schools to see funding changes after bill clears Legislature

Now that the 86th Texas legislative session has ended, public schools will see changes in how they are funded.

House Bill 3 decreases property taxes in school districts and increases public funding to schools, according to the Texas Tribune. Specifically, teachers will see pay increases, schools will get more money per student and full-day prekindergarten will be funded for low-income families.

Full-day pre-K funding caught Spring Hill ISD’s attention.

Superintendent Wayne Guidry said the board approved adding a new pre-K teacher position at a special meeting Wednesday night. Spring Hill has a half-day pre-K program.

Before making a final decision on switching to a full-day pre-K program, Guidry said the district is trying to get a head count on how many families would participate.

“We need it,” Guidry said. “Every school district needs it. There are many schools that offer full-day pre-K but only get funded for half-day.”

Before HB 3, districts received $5,140 per student, Guidry said. But for pre-K students, districts would receive half that amount — even if the district had a full-day program.

Now, schools will receive $6,160 per student, even for pre-K students.

Pine Tree ISD has a full-day pre-K program that was being only half-funded, so Superintendent Steve Clugston said the funding change is welcomed.

“That’s an expense we’ve kind of had to squeeze out of our budget, which is a pretty good amount of money,” he said. “This allows us to not have to squeeze so tight.”

White Oak ISD is not looking at making changes right away to its half-day pre-K, Superintendent Mike Gilbert said.

“Because of the late time frame — we’re two months away from starting school again, basically — we’re not planning to change for 2019-2020,” he said. “We are going to look at that during the school year and make plans to make adjustments where we need to for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Districts also are welcoming another change the bill provides — an increase in teacher compensation.

HB 3 mandates schools spend a portion of the increase in funds per student on teacher, librarian, counselor and nurse pay raises, according to the Tribune. School districts will have some flexibility on how to distribute that extra money to teachers, so exact numbers are unavailable.

Longview ISD Superintendent James Wilcox said his understanding of the legislation is that 30 percent of the district’s increased funding must be spent on raises for all school employees.

Gilbert also said wording in the bill led him to believe 30 percent of the new funds will go to staff raises, which is something White Oak will have to sort out once the district knows how much it will get in new funds.

Along with new funds being pumped into districts, HB 3 lowers tax rates for homeowners in school districts. According to the Tribune, the bill lowers tax rates 7 cents per $100 valuation.

“We have a community that’s agreed to pay a lot more taxes to fund our current system, and one thing that’s nice about the tax change is we had an 11-cent decline compared to some districts,” Guidry said. “That’s good for homeowners. In 2021, that’ll go down another cent.”

The White Oak tax rate will supposedly go down 10 cents, Gilbert said, making the tax rate $1.06 per $100 valuation.

While the decrease in tax rate is good for homeowners in school districts, some superintendents are concerned about how stable future revenue will be.

Gilbert said collecting less in taxes but getting more money are ideas that typically do not go together, and that makes the district guarded about future revenue sources.

Guidry has similar concerns.

“The problem is, we’ve just decreased property taxes. We’ve increased revenue to school districts. Where’s the money coming from?” he asked. “Right now, we just happen to have a great economy with surplus that’s funding this. What happens when things don’t go so well? Where does the funding come from at that point?”


Graduations

From staff reports

The East Texas high school graduation season closed Friday night as seniors at Pine Tree and Hallsville high schools gathered their diplomas.

In Longview, Pine Tree seniors filled Pirate Stadium for their commencement.

Valedictorian for Pine Tree’s Class of 2019 is Shawn Naseiro, while salutatorian is Akshay Peddireddy.

In Hallsville, Bobcat Stadium welcomed graduating Hallsville seniors as well as families and friends who came to support them.

Hallsville High School’s valedictorian is Nathanael Brooks Davis, and the salutatorian is Andrew Lee Hickey.


As Trump threatens tariffs, migrant families keep coming

EL PASO — On Wednesday, Border Patrol agents near downtown El Paso encountered a group of 1,036 migrants who had entered the country illegally — the biggest cluster the agency has ever seen. At one point in May, a holding cell designed for 35 migrants was crammed with 155. Six children have died in U.S. custody since September, three in the past month.

And for May, officials said Thursday, apprehensions are expected to hit their highest level in more than a dozen years and “significantly surpass the record 109,000 in April,” said acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

U.S. authorities are overstretched and overwhelmed by an unprecedented surge of Central American families arriving at the southern border. It is against that backdrop that President Donald Trump threatened this week to slap tariffs on goods from Mexico unless it cracks down on the flow of migrants.

“It is certainly a crisis at this point, and it does not lend itself to quick fixes,” said Doris Meissner, who headed the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Clinton administration and is now a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

Border Patrol arrests have jumped sharply over the last year but are still well below historic highs of the early 2000s. What’s different is the type of people crossing: Able-bodied Mexican men have been replaced by Central American families with children, many of them impelled to make the journey because of grinding poverty and violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Juan Carlos Santos, 34, walked past the end of a bollard-style fence in New Mexico with his 9-year-old son, Yair, and was picked up by Border Patrol agents. On Friday, he was at the El Paso Greyhound station, bound for Washington, where he has a cousin who lent him money to pay a smuggler.

Santos said he wanted to stay in Honduras but gave up after a year of unemployment. The farmworker hopes to bring his wife and 2-year-old daughter after paying his debt to his cousin.

“There’s no work,” said Santos, who blamed drought and other factors for a decline in the corn and coffee fields he used to harvest. “Unemployment gets to you.”

The surge has shown U.S. authorities to be woefully unprepared.

The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog reported Friday that during unannounced visits to El Paso in early May, it found a 125-person capacity holding facility had 700 people one day and 900 another day. They were packed in so tightly that some resorted to standing on toilets.

Agents told investigators that some migrants were being held in standing-room-only conditions for days or weeks.

“We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represents an immediate risk to the health and safety not just of the detainees, but also DHS agents and officers. Border Patrol management on site said there is a high incidence of illness among their staff,” the report said.

Along the nearly 2,000-mile Mexican border, there were 98,777 arrests in April, nearly 7 out of 10 of them people who came as families or children traveling alone. Arrests are up from 38,243 a year earlier, when about 1 in 3 were members of families or unaccompanied children.

El Paso offers the starkest illustration of the shifting landscape. Arrests there are up nearly 1,000 percent from a year earlier, and nearly 9 out of 10 are families or unaccompanied children.

Migrants are increasingly coming in large groups. The Border Patrol said it has encountered more than 180 groups of over 100 people since October, compared with 13 in the previous 12-month period and two the year before.

Meissner said the Trump administration’s tariff ultimatum is the latest in a series of dialed-up threats after several failures, including the practice of separating families at the border.

“These shock-and-awe measures that this administration keeps trying to put into place every several months each time is making it worse,” she said.

Meissner said people in Central America who are thinking of journeying to the U.S. are being told by smugglers and family members in this country: “You better come now. You never know what’s coming next.”


Local
Appointees to Longview boards, commissions announced

From staff reports

Some new faces are joining several city of Longview boards and commissions next month.

The city has 12 boards and commissions whose members are appointed by the council. The boards and commissions advise the council and administrators on a variety of issues.

New appointees were nominated by the Council Appointments Committee consisting of District 2 Councilwoman Nona Snoddy and District 5 Councilman David Wright.

Each panel comes with a two-year term except the Planning and Zoning Commission, which has three-year terms.

Many of the city’s various boards, commissions and committees have residency and other special requirements.

Members are required to attend regularly scheduled meetings, and poor attendance could be reason for the City Council to remove a member from office.

The makeup for 2019-20 city of Longview boards and commissions is:

Animal Shelter Advisory Committee

Appointments were Allyson Bock and Amy Canton, members; Chris Kemper, daily operations/staff; Elizabeth Pritchett, veterinarian.

Reappointed was Terri Chadd, animal welfare representative.

Construction Advisory and Appeals Board

Reappointed was Jim Hugman, architect.

Cultural Activities Advisory Commission

Appointed was Brianna Dunham, member.

Reappointed were Mia Levetan and Chandalyn Lewis-Jenkins, members.

Emergency Medical Service Advisory Board

Reappointed were Missie Banda, GSMC member; and Mike Fennell, Amanda Hughes and Julie Meyers, members.

Longview Historic Preservation Commission

Appointed were James Cogar, chairman; Andrew Khoury, vice chairman; and Meredith May, member.

Reappointed was Michael Smith, Realtor.

Housing & Community

Development Advisory Commission

Appointed was Askala Harris, member.

Reappointed was Rasheen Lewis, member.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

Reappointed were Richard Lazarus, Mark Robinson and David Stanton, members.

Partners in Prevention Steering Committee

Appointed was Kimberly Procell, member.

Reappointed were Lois Collins and Chesley Knowles, members.

Planning and Zoning Commission

Appointed was Cody Sage, member.

Reappointed were Frankie Parson, chairwoman; and Temple Carpenter III and Pat Noon, members.

Public Transportation Advisory Board

Appointed were Jordan Baumer and Michelle Heflin, members.

Reappointed was Eddie Towles, member.

Zoning Board of Adjustment

Appointed were Chad Harkey, chairman; Jason Jones, vice chairman; Bernd Deblow, Jim Mobley and Kirt Villyard, members; and Randy Bowman, Christy Cravey and Patrick O’Rear, alternates.

The 12th panel, the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, required no changes because each council member chooses two people from his or her district to serve on the committee.

To be considered for a board or committee nomination, call the City Manager’s Office at (903) 237-1021.