OUR VIEW: Think differently

Mar. 4—We at the Register want to commend Gainesville ISD board members for thinking differently and approving a four-day school week.

That switch has been popular elsewhere in Texas and we think it'll do some good here, too.

It's a good tradeoff: slightly longer school days in exchange for not having to run buses or cafeterias one day per week will save some money and mitigate acute needs for drivers and other school support staff. Teachers will get a day of peace to catch up on paperwork, confer with parents, do the continuing education necessary for their licenses and generally think more about what they're doing.

And the students will spend one less day per week insisting they are too sick to go to schooltha

This redeployment of existing assets, however, won't do a heck of a lot to solve the longer-term problems of teacher recruitment and retention or how to finance capital improvements. We suppose the new schedule could attract a few more teachers who otherwise wouldn't consider Gainesville ISD, but probably not enough to make a huge difference. The real systemic problems that confront rural schools in Texas are only going to be changed with more money and more cooperation from citizens.

Yes, our property taxes are too high and our present reliance on property taxes to fund public schools needs to change. It's not reasonable for the Legislature to keep cutting these taxes, creating new exemptions and clawing money back from school districts that happen to raise more revenues than projected.

It appears that the Legislature and Gov. Abbott are going to use a great big chunk of the state's $33 billion surplus for property tax relief and some help for local school districts in this year's session. That's good. We at the Register welcome that. However, those moves don't fundamentally fix the underlying problem — we need to diversify the funding for our schools and, indeed, our local and state governments.

There is another way to diversify revenues that may — may — merit consideration. Yes, it's that tax just about every other state has but Texas does not. We don't say it's the answer, but we do say that there's nothing wrong with at least studying the idea.

Rep. David Spiller, Cooke County's man in the Legislature, has pitched replacing the property tax levy that cover school districts' overhead with a statewide sales tax. It's an interesting idea, but we'd like to see how exactly that would work before we support it.

Cutting property tax rates and summarily refusing to consider any bond issues to fix up school facilities isn't working. We think there's a way to effective property tax relief without further strangling rural schools. We at the Register think it's time to think differently.