ETX schools team up with parents and businesses to fight school finance

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - EAST TEXAS (KTRE) – School districts are partnering with local businesses and parents in hopes of putting an end to the increasing amount of tests being given to students.

School officials say these tests, along with budget cuts, are causing students to miss out on important skills needed in life.

"It's wrong, and we've been fighting it. And, I think it's about time that we have stood up as a group and said let's quit this labeling," said Gary Martel, superintendent, Diboll ISD.

Diboll ISD is one of the many school districts in Texas hoping to see change.  School districts and businesses say the abundant amount of emphasis being solely placed on standardized testing has students poorly prepared for the workforce.

"We're doing exactly what the system is requiring us to do. We're sending out a product that can regurgitate and memorize knowledge and give it back to you one day a year on a test. Then, they're graded on whether they know it that day or not," said Martel.

"Graduates do not have the skills of working collaboratively, problem solving, thinking critically, creatively," said Mary Ann Whiteker, superintendent, Hudson ISD.

An education summit was held this week to seek solutions to this problem and address the legislation.

Lufkin superintendent Roy Knight says legislators are on the wrong track. "Testifying that our standards aren't high enough," said Knight.

Knight says this year's thousand dollar budget cuts forced LISD to eliminate the student debate team this year.  He says debate is one of the several programs teaching students practical life skills that they are now missing out on.

Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce are stepping in to aid schools in reversing the emphasis on testing.  "It takes the public. It takes local individuals doing something to make a difference and to make changes to our current legislation," said Melissa Wheeler, Angelina County Chamber of Commerce.

Superintendents say they need the community's help in getting started.  "Resources will determine how much you can implement and at what pace," said Whiteker.

The general consensus was change is a process that cannot be completed overnight.

State District Judge John Dietz has set October 22 for trial of 86 Texas schools challenging the public school finance system.

They want the courts to declare the school finance system unconstitutional due to inefficiency.  They are asking the courts to examine how education funding is spent, rather than simply if it is distributed fairly among school districts.

Martel says the schools may face another round of budget cuts before then.

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