Thursday, March 31, 2011

Solution to Texas Deficit Crisis

After many revisions the message to be used has been reduced to one statement:
A challenge is made for anyone to find an error in this statement.  The site has the data upon which this statement is based.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The cause and a solution for the Texas budget crisis

After many months, and pages of discussion on how to avoid the painful and damaging cuts in services and education in Texas, there is one conclusion that is repeated more and more often in many different settings throughout Texas. The regressive taxation system in Texas is to blame.  Here is one sign that will be seen around the Texas State Capitol during future gatherings:

Is there a more accurate way, in less than 14 words, to describe the cause for the pain and loss that the elderly, disabled, and children of Texas are facing?

The Texas budget would balance without cuts if the rich paid 2/3 of the effective tax rate paid by the poorest 20% of Texans.  See

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Final Report Card on Dallas ISD Board Budgeting in 2011: Graduation Rate changes 2012-2016

On March 24, 2011, the Dallas ISD Board will consider some of the most consequential changes possible relative to future graduation rate progress within DISD. They may take actions to lay off more than 500 teachers.

As indicated on the "Dallas ISD Report Card for 2011 Budgeting" below, the past 5 years have shown record breaking progress in raising the graduation rate within DISD.  The DISD Class of 2010 set a 20+ year graduation rate record!  Over 50% of the full 9th grade enrollment of 2006-2007 was reflected in the number getting diplomas with the Class of 2010!  This is the first time DISD has gone above 50% in this graduation rate measurement in over 20 years!  The indicators for the future are that this number will continue to grow at least through 2013! The five measurements used in this graph are as follows:
  1. The ninth grade bulge reduction is the percentage of 8th grade enrollment reflected in 9th grade enrollment. Yes, 9th grade enrollments in Texas are usually much bigger than the 8th grade enrollments.  This is the called "the 9th grade bulge," students repeating 9th grade due to poor middle school preparation and support in high school, often until they just drop out. As the bulge shrinks the percentage of 8th grade enrollment reflected in 9th grade enrollment grows, as has been happening for 5 years in DISD.
  2. The percent of last yrs 9th grade in 10th is another indicator of the 9th grade bulge as students leave the 9th grade. As the bulge shrinks this number increases.  DISD now has the smallest 9th grade enrollment, and the largest 10th grade enrollment, in over 20 years!
  3. The Promotion Rate is the 12th grade enrollment as a percentage of original full 9th grade enrollment. It is the measurement used by John Hopkins University in their nationally known "Dropout Factory Study." The progress in DISD is wonderful and the number of Dropout Factory high schools in DISD is the lowest in decades.
  4. The Graduation Rate as calculated here is the number of diplomas granted as a percentage of full 9th grade enrollment.  It is not to be confused with the "Graduation Rate" numbers given out by both DISD and TEA. Those numbers include corrections from coding by clerks in each school so as to document valid transfers both into and out of our schools.  The measurement in this chart only counts full 9th grade enrollment as compared with the full number of diplomas given, with no such corrections by coding clerks.
  5. The Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) rate calculation, is the most timely and predictive of these five measurements. It is calculated in the identical manner as the Graduation Rate above, using the four transitions toward graduation: 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, 11th to 12th, 12th to graduation. The difference is that each of the transitions used in the CPI calculation is from a different student group so that all four transitions happen within the same calendar year and not one group spread across 4 years. Consequently the CPI is much more timely with all calculations used reflecting what is happening within the most recent year in a school or school district.  It is also more predictive since three of the four groups measured have not yet graduated and will contribute to future graduation rates as well.
Here is the graph reflecting these 5 graduation rate measurements over the last 5 years in DISD.  What will this same graph updated 5 years from now with then current data say about the decisions made in 2011 in DISD?
The anticipated loss of hundreds of teachers endangers the progress made over the past 5 years.   Hopefully the updates that will be made to this chart in 2016 will not be a report card reflecting declines or setbacks but continued progress.

Graduation rates rise due to the positive relationships of students with teachers. Fewer teachers mean less potential for such positive relationships. Crowded classrooms lower graduation rates.

The ultimate responsibility for this crisis is with the Texas Legislature.  The is a record of those issues.  A bill now in committee, Texas House Bill 354 could eliminate the deficit by sharing the burdens more equally among all Texans. We have work to do in Austin to protect our students, and the future of Texas. 

To see spreadsheets used to create these charts go to for Excel copies, or study the progress that is demonstrated in the copy below:
Click on the above image to make it larger.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

82nd Texas Legislature Report Card on Education

Texans need to think of ways to evaluate the success of the 82nd Texas Legislature, now in session, regarding the planned budget cuts in education.   There are now 4,933,600 children in Texas schools.  We have a critical obligation to be vigilant and maintain the wonderful progress of the last 5 years!

Here is a suggested format for one report card on the effects of the budget work of the 82nd Texas Legislature on education.  It is a graph of the progress of the past 5 years with space provided to fill in the blanks as these same measurements are documented over the next 5 years.   How will the 82nd Legislature do? You may click on the above chart to see a larger image of it, print it out (landscape format), or email it to share with your legislator, or with your friends also working to help communicate the issues with our legislature.

The Excel format 1997-2011 enrollment by grade spreadsheet for all Texas children used in these charts can be downloaded from

We must put this crisis in perspective:

The Texas school funding crisis is only the smoke.

Almost 50 years ago I was waiting in a grain truck north of Hereford in a wheat field on my dad's farm. I was waiting for the combine to fill up for the next dump. The smoke I suddenly smelled is like the educational funding crisis!  While potentially deadly, the smoke was caused by the fire in the subble in front of the truck.  That fire is like the Texas state taxation system.  It is the real problem!

You cannot have a state taxation system that taxes the poor at a percentage of their income (12.2%) that is four times the rate (3%) at which the rich are taxed!  School funding is only the smoke, deadly, but still just the smoke!

The problem with this analogy is that the Texas state taxation system crisis is nothing new or sudden!


Bill Betzen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Progress in Texas Schools shown by February TEA data release, but will budget cuts end this progress?

The newest Texas Education Agency enrollment and graduation data for Texas public schools was posted in February on the TEA web site. I have been working today to update the old graph posted only with the enrollment data for last year. With this new data the progress that is happening in Texas schools is more than amply documented. Here is the initial draft of the graph I have made with the new data:

Click on the above chart to see a bigger copy. All four of these measurements tracked in the graph increased from 1.4 to 3.5 percentage points this past year alone with this update!  This is wonderful progress for schools representing 4,900,000 students! It is also significant progress on four measurements tracking the most critical factor in our school system, the deadly dropout rate. No single variable contributes more consistently to the crime rate in Texas than the dropout rate.

The probability of this progress continuing is in danger with the currently planned cuts in education funding in Texas. The time is long overdue to correct the state and local taxing systems in Texas. The 20% of families with the lowest incomes pay the highest percentage, 12.2% of their income, in state and local taxes.  The richest 100,000 Texan families, the 1% of the state with incomes over $463,000 annually, only pay 3% of their income in state and local taxes.  We have a problem! Texas definitely has the money. We only need to decide that education is a priority. See

Here is a report card to use in helping to communicate the message to legislators that we will be watching for the effects of their current refusal to address equal tax rates for all Texans but instead cutting public education:

If anyone wants a copy of the spreadsheet, and all the numbers used in creating the charts above, please email  I will continue to work on these charts to make them more useful. Ideas are welcome! Due to the budget crisis here in Texas it is urgent such updates on the wonderful progress in Texas education are known.  The damage a 15% cut in funding for education would do to this progress is frightening!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rainy Day Fund will help, but a permanent fix to Texas tax inequities is needed

The funding crisis Texas is facing is much bigger than only school funding, even bigger than the entire $27 billion deficit.  This is an ongoing problem, year after year, as Texas tries to get all the money it needs for government, and a nice mansion for the current governor, disproportionately from the poor.  The taxes in Texas need to come equally from all income levels so that everyone is paying the same proportion of their income in taxes.  What is wrong with that? 

If the wealthy paid the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as the poor, Texas would not have a deficit.

From 6:30 to 9:30 AM this past Monday and Tuesday I stood with this sign at the entry way where legislators slow down to put their card into the reader to open the gate to the underground parking garage.  They were polite and many gave strong verbal approval for this sign.  Now we need to see action that moves the bills now before legislative committees out to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote.   The legislators can fix this crisis by simply practicing equality, all income levels paying their fair share.   What is the problem with that?   See for details.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Texas Education Budget Cut Crisis

There is nothing more painful that to have been part of a system that was constantly improving for the past 5 years and to suddenly see that system begin to fight against itself due to pending budget cuts.  Texas was constantly improving for the past 5 years, as is clearly indicated by the constantly improving graduation rate data shown in this chart:
Texas must now decide how important the education of the children of Texas is.  Is it so important that Texas will consider and discuss the possible addition of as much as 6% in taxes to Texan families making in excess of a half a million dollars a year?  Texas is about to have the values of our great state exposed to the nation in a blunt and clear manner that has never happened before. There is no shortcut out of this fact.

Please study the alternatives presented in They are simple.  They will improve Texas forever.  Come join us at the demonstrations in Austin this week.  Here is the flyer being handed out at the demonstrations in Austin both Saturday and Monday.

Questions are welcomed.
Bill Betzen
214-957-9739 cell