LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) –When it comes to money and academic success, Hudson Independent School District does it better than any school district in Deep East Texas, according to the Texas comptroller.
"It's a great accolade I suppose, you know we're always trying to improve," said Hudson ISD Business Manager Barrett Lankford. "We're always trying to make the most of what little that we get."
Despite the high marks, the man behind the numbers at Hudson said they're still struggling. Lankford worries a five-star rating means the state will use their success to limit future funding.
"When you do well with what you've got, they're very quick to point the finger and say you don't need anymore money, you're doing fine," Lankford said.
As it is now, Hudson, along with every other district in Angelina County, gets about $500 less per student than the state average and when you have more than 2,600 students in your district, it starts to add up.
Lankford said planning building improvements years in advance and redirecting tax money helped.
"We look at grants, we look at partnering with businesses," said Lankford. "You have to be frugal and you have to establish really good relationships outside of the school district."
The TAKS test is set to be replaced with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR test next year. It's a costly move districts want to postpone.
"If we have to block off 45 days for testing and also for re-testing, then we're going to have to pull teachers out of the classroom to administer the test and it's going to cost school districts money to line up substitutes to watch those classes while they're administering the test," Lankford explained.
"I feel like we're already lost in the shuffle, that teachers work so hard, but they don't have time," said Hudson Middle School Counselor Donna Rollins.
They may be the best with a shoestring budget, but unfunded classroom mandates will continue to challenge their skills.
"I think it's a major concern across the state right now and I think a lot of school district are looking for answers and you just consistently go to the drawing board and try to figure out how you can do it," said Hudson High School Assistant Principal John Courtney.
"School districts simply cannot continue to operate at the same level that they have in the past and just get more piled on top of them," said Lankford. "They just reach a breaking point."