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EDF report on school buses

From the Environmental Defense Fund:

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) [Monday] released a report titled “Review of Texas’ Clean School Bus Programs: How Far Have We Come and What Is Still Left to Do?” This report evaluates each of the clean school bus programs in Texas, reviews accomplishments, and offers suggestions for improvement.

Diesel engines power most of the estimated 480,000 school buses in the United States, and the World Health Organization recently classified diesel exhaust as a known carcinogen, specifically noting a causal link between exposure to diesel exhaust and lung cancer. One of the most dangerous components of diesel exhaust is particulate matter (PM). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is particularly concerned with these smallest-sized particles, because they are known to aggravate asthma, cause lung inflammation, lead to heart problems, and increase the risk of cancer and premature death.

Texas children riding to school in buses built before 2007 may be breathing air inside the cabin of the bus that contains 5-10 times higher the amount of diesel pollution than found outside the bus. These older bus engines spew nearly 40 toxic substances and smog-forming emissions. Children, who breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults, are therefore exposed to even higher health risks because their lungs are still developing.

As of the 2010-2011 school year, the Texas Education Agency reported that nearly two-thirds of current school buses were over six years old, emitting at least 10 times as much PM as older buses, and much more in many cases because a large proportion of the fleet is even older. More than 700,000 children are impacted, meaning that nearly half of the students relying on school buses for transportation in Texas still ride dirty buses.

[…]

There are two current programs available to help retrofit or replace the remaining 17,000 dirty schools buses in Texas. Under the Texas Clean School Bus Program, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is accepting applications for grants through November 30. This is a comprehensive program designed to reduce diesel exhaust emissions through school bus retrofits. All public school districts and charter schools in Texas are eligible to apply for this grant. Private schools are not eligible for funding. Public school districts that lease buses are also eligible.

EPA also launched a new rebate funding opportunity for school bus replacements under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. Applications will be accepted from Nov. 13 to Dec. 14. The first round of rebates will be offered as part of a pilot program and will focus on the replacement of older school buses in both public and private fleets. If the pilot proves successful, EPA will look at rebates for other fleet types and technologies.

The report is here, along with supplemental information. The deadline for the TCEQ grants has been extended to December 14. I had no idea any of this existed, so it’s good to know and good to see that we’re making progress. Many buses can be effectively retrofitted, but some will need to be replaced. Perhaps this will be an opening in the state for the electric school bus industry. In any event, check with your school or your local school board to see what’s being done for your kids.

More frontiers in school bus advertising

This had not occurred to me.

Why not?

The rooftop of a suburban high school is not a location that companies usually consider prime advertising real estate. But in Humble Independent School District, it may be. The district’s high school is directly in a flight path for Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Although the rooftop plan has yet to come to fruition, Humble ISD has already sold the naming rights to nearly every piece of its football stadium, including the entryway, the press box and the turf. Its school buses carry advertisements for the Houston Astros and local hospitals, among others.

The school district is pioneering a practice that an increasing number of districts across the state are adopting: selling advertisements on pieces of school property to help make up for some of the money lost through state budget cuts.

Advertising revenue can benefit school districts that primarily have two sources of income — what they receive from local taxpayers and what they get from the state and federal government. But with school leaders under pressure to find creative financing sources and few state-level guidelines about what is appropriate, some researchers who study the impact of ads in schools question whether schools fully grasp the consequences of commercialism creeping into public schools.

You have to admire the creativity. Humble ISD has apparently taken in over a million bucks in advertising revenue since 2007. Other school districts have done well with advertising, some not as well as they’d expected. Even for the more successful district advertising programs, however, it just represents a drop in the bucket. Here’s a timely bit of news from Public Citizen:

In “School Commercialism: High Costs, Low Revenues,” Public Citizen found that school advertising programs are providing less than half of one percent of school revenues, and often far less. Public Citizen surveyed the nation’s 25 largest school districts; 10 reported that they maintained in-school advertising programs or were considering such programs. No program reported raising more than $250,000. No program reported raising more than 0.03 percent of the school system’s overall budget.

Those school systems that report having in-school advertising programs include: Cypress Fairbanks, Texas, Independent School District; Dallas Independent School District; Houston Independent School District; Jefferson County, Colo., Public Schools and Orange County, Fla., Public Schools.

You can read their report here. They’re pretty negative about the whole thing. As you know, I have no problem with this practice. We do need to keep it in perspective, however. No amount of ads can come close to making up for the funding cuts imposed by last year’s Legislature.

More on uniform start times and other options HISD is considering

As we know, HISD is contemplating uniform start times as a way to save a few bucks for the next fiscal year. They do have some other ideas going, as well as a possible property tax rate hike, and they would like some input from you. From the inbox, from HISD Trustee Paula Harris:

Paula Harris

Implementing uniform schedules across the Houston Independent School District’s 279 campuses would free up $1.2 million while giving the average student an extra 19 minutes in the classroom, according to a budget-cutting option presented to the HISD Board of Education today.

HISD is looking for more ways to reduce spending as the district seeks to address a projected $34 million deficit for the 2012-2013 school year. The loss in revenue is a result of last year’s decision by the Texas Legislature to reduce public education funding by $5.3 billion.

Streamlining HISD’s bell schedule was among many potential spending reduction options discussed during Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. Under this plan, every HISD school would have an instructional day that is 7 ½ hours long. This represents a 19-minute increase for the average HISD school, or a total of seven full days of extra instruction time over the course of the year.

Currently, HISD schools have about 20 different start and end times. Under the option presented today, schools would operate on the following bell schedule:

  •          Approximately half of all elementary schools would operate from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  •          Approximately half of all elementary schools would operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  •          All middle schools would operate from 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
  •          All high schools would operate from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

The cost savings in this plan would come from a much more efficient school bus operation that would allow each bus to drive more routes than is currently possible.

Starting high school classes later in the day is supported by scientific research that shows teens learn better when they’re able to sleep later in the morning. The 19 HISD schools that currently operate for more than 7 ½ hours per day would be allowed to continue offering the same amount of instructional time, said Chief Operating Officer Leo Bobadilla.

In the coming weeks, HISD will be gathering community input on the streamlined bell schedule option. A detailed description of the plan and a survey will be posted to the district’s website, www.houstonisd.org. A series of community meetings will be held in locations throughout the district, and principals will be asked to meet with their communities to gather even more input. HISD administration plans to analyze all of this feedback before making a formal proposal for the Board of Education’s consideration by May 17.

Other options considered for addressing $34 million deficit

HISD Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett so far has identified about $12 million in possible budget cuts for addressing the anticipated $34 million deficit. Those options include:

  •          A $5 million reduction in the amount of ASPIRE Awards paid to teachers and other campus employees for raising student achievement
  •          A $1.5 million cut in general departmental spending
  •          A $1.3 million reduction in special education spending that corresponds with a decline in the number of special education students in HISD
  •          A $615,000 savings by closing these three HISD administrative offices currently housed in old school buildings and relocating staff elsewhere:

o   The Langston facility

o   The Chatham facility

o   The Holden facility

  •          A $600,000 savings from the removal of 153 under-utilized temporary buildings located at schools through HISD

Garrett said her staff will continue searching for potential budget cuts. She also briefed the Board of Education on the possibility of addressing some of the funding shortfall with a property tax rate increase. HISD currently offers the lowest tax rate of any school district in Harris County, plus an additional 20 percent homestead exemption that is rare among Texas school districts.

Texas’ current school finance formula penalizes school districts such as HISD with low tax rates. That penalty currently costs HISD schools about $5 million per year. Raising HISD’s tax rate by 1.5 cents per $100 of a property’s taxable value would restore that $5 million in state funding and generate a approximately $15 million in local tax revenue, Garrett said. A 1.5-cent tax rate increase would cost the owner of the average HISD home valued at $197,408 about $21.44 per year.

HISD has posted an online survey to gauge opinion on the possibility of adopting a new bus schedule that increases the average school’s class time by 19 minutes per day. You can find the link here:

http://www.houstonisd.org/HISDConnectDS/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=f54f52646a1b5310VgnVCM10000028147fa6RCRD&vgnextchannel=051bdfb83de94310VgnVCM10000028147fa6RCRD

Whatever you think about the different choices, or if you think there are other choices that should be on the table, here’s your chance to tell them about it.

Electric school buses

Trans Tech eTrans 42 passenger electric school bus

There’s a lot to like about this.

Bus maker Trans Tech Bus this year said it would start making an electric school bus in a partnership with Smith Electric Vehicles. The eTrans bus is one of a new generation of zero-emission electric and hybrid-electric models that are slowly making their way to school districts around the county.

It’s hard to imagine the bulky, boxy school bus at the forefront of clean-energy and fuel-saving technology. Most buses run on diesel fuel, get mileage in the single digits and have the aerodynamic profile of, well, a school bus.

But school buses are almost ideally suited to be electric vehicles. For one thing, they cover fairly short distances on their daily runs, rarely leaving city limits on the way to and from school. And they follow set, predictable routes. That reduces the chances of a bus accidentally running out of battery power before it finishes its route and returns to the lot.

What’s more, school buses make frequent stops. While that’s bad for fuel-efficiency on a conventional gasoline or diesel vehicle, electric vehicles can capture some of the energy used in applying the brakes to recharge their batteries, extending their range.

One big plus: School buses are off the streets sitting in a depot for much of the day, giving them plenty of time to recharge their batteries.

“They have fixed routes and downtime in the day,” says Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith Electric Vehicles, a Kansas City, Mo., manufacturer of the electric motors, batteries and underbody of the eTrans bus. “It really does allow you to maximize the use of that battery and make the money work.”

That story was published on December 28, so “this year” refers to 2011. See here and here for earlier stories about Trans Tech Bus. These buses will save school districts a lot of money over the long run in fuel, and would be a boon for air quality by taking a bunch of nasty diesel engine vehicles off the street. Only one problem, of course, and that’s the startup cost of buying a bunch of these electric buses, which cost more than regular buses. In a more functional society, we would see this for the excellent investment that it is and create a funding source to help school districts defray these expenses, but alas, we don’t have one. But hey, it’s a new year, there’s an election coming up, and if you can’t hope for better now then when can you hope for better? Regardless of anything else, I do hope HISD takes a look at these alternatives to diesel-fueled buses. This is the direction they and many other school districts need to be going.

Back to school

Time to do more with less, kids. Just don’t expect to be cut any slack on those standardized tests.

When Texas students return to public schools this week, some will see a slight uptick in class sizes and fewer teachers, while many will have to walk or get rides because bus service was cut to save money.

Last spring, parents and educators feared that state budget cuts would be so drastic they would lead to giant classes and 100,000 jobless educators. However, lawmakers scaled back the reductions amid protests, and recently released federal economic-stimulus funding also helped plug holes this year.

That’s one way of putting it, I guess, and it does at least acknowledge that public opinion was strongly against the massive cuts that were initially proposed by the State House, and which every single Republican in the State House voted for. I don’t believe the Senate was ever going to go along with that, so it’s not clear to me how much pressure the protests actually applied. I don’t want to downplay the effort because I think it was important and necessary, but as I said at the time if it’s not followed by electoral action against the many legislators who paid it no heed, then it was more noise than anything else.

Houston-area school officials said they have worked to make sure students won’t be severely hurt by the $4 billion statewide cut to public education over the next two years.

Yet some districts and schools are harder hit than others based on the state’s funding system, changes in student enrollment and the ways administrators chose to balance the books.

[…]

Few districts other than HISD have tracked individual employees since they initially received pink slips, making it impossible to determine how many teachers and other school workers are unemployed. Some who lost jobs have been absorbed into positions vacated through resignations and retirements.

Yet most local districts report that they will have fewer teachers and other staff this year. Katy ISD, which has 52 schools, will have one fewer teacher per campus on average, while the schools in Klein ISD will have one or two fewer teachers each.

Pasadena ISD laid off about 180 teachers in the spring, but at least 62 have been rehired.

We know that HISD has hired back some teachers, as has Austin ISD. The reason for this is that most school districts had to finalize their own budgets before the Lege finished its budget, so they mostly prepared for the worst and got lucky. It must be noted that the Lege backloaded its cuts to public education, meaning that there will be less money for the 2012-2013 school year than there was for this one, so some of those folks that got hired back will be in peril again. And the long term picture remains grim.

Alamo Heights ISD Superintendent Kevin Brown says recent budget cuts forced him to increase some high school classes by three students each. That means teachers with full course loads will be responsible for 18 more teenagers a day, and Brown knows an increasing number of them will come from disadvantaged homes.

“I think we are setting ourselves up as a state for a very challenging future,” said Brown, who has spent the summer adjusting his district’s budget because of state cuts. “It’s very frustrating.”

In the past decade, Texas’ population soared by 4 million residents and its public schools became poorer and more Hispanic. Since 2000, enrollment has grown by 874,000 to 4.9 million school children, but the number of students from low-income families has increased by more than 913,000. Studies indicate that children from low-income families cost more to educate.

And that’s from one of the wealthier districts in the state. Texas’ public school students are increasingly from low-income families, yet we’re cutting teachers and support staff, reducing college opportunities, eliminating bus service, and charging students for extracurriculars, athletics, and a whole host of other things. We’re doing everything in our power, in other words, to ensure they have a low-income future. Have a great year, kids.

School bus ads come to Comal County

Given the budget cuts from the Legislature, I figure we’ll see a lot more school districts hop on the bus, as it were.

This year, 10 Comal school district buses that deliver students to school and home also will be delivering a word from the district’s sponsors.
The full-color placards, promoting banking services, sandwiches and flooring, were unveiled Monday.

Under a plan that initially will net the district around $2,100 a month, advertising space has been sold on the traditional yellow school buses. If ad space can be sold on each of the district’s 245 buses, said Transportation Director Gus Rodriguez, the district could pocket an extra $300,000 annually.

That’s a nice piece of change, and I hope they are able to get every penny of it. To put it in some perspective, however, Comal ISD had a budget of over $120 million for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and was staring at an operating shortfall of $16.8 million for the 2011-2012 FY. In other words, this is a very limited solution. Indeed, this Fox Business story says that school bus ad revenue will be used to buy more school buses in Comal ISD. Point being, they’re not hiring any teachers or other staffers back based on this.

As we know, HISD approved a school bus ad program in May. I presume we’ll see them in force this fall. Other districts have been doing this for a couple of years now. It may not be a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but I can’t think of a good reason why any school district would leave it on the table at this point.

HISD gets ready to roll out bus ads

Last year, I noted that the HISD Board of Trustees had approved a plan to allow advertising on its school buses. They are now finally ready to get this going.

HISD has partnered with Steep Creek Media to offer advertising space on the district’s school bus fleet, which boasts more than 1,000 vehicles that travel an average of 70,000 miles a day in the greater Houston area.

Prices begin at $175 per month, but high volume discounts are available. Buses can be targeted based upon the area of the city in which they travel (e.g. around Loop 610, near Hobby Airport, etc.) so that your business can get wider or more localized exposure, depending on your preference. The typical turnaround time for ads to go public is three to four weeks.

To place an ad or request more information, including details on pricing, content restrictions (i.e. must be family friendly and age-appropriate), and other FAQ, please contact Steep Creek Media directly at 281-962-4390 or click the links above.

Approximately 70 percent of all revenues collected will be returned to the district to support student achievement.

I received an email from Steep Creek Media about this, which says there will be a press conference about this tomorrow at 11 AM at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 W. 18th, 77092. Other info of interest from the email:

Since Steep Creek Media began the program in 2008 with Humble ISD, many other districts have followed suit including: Anahuac, Cy-Fair, Friendswood, Houston, Huffman, Pasadena and Spring ISDs.

School bus ad sizes, placement and content are carefully monitored. The state mandates where and what size the ads can be, while each sign must be approved by district officials before being placed on a bus.

So there you have it. As you know, I favor this tactic, as long as HISD’s cut of the revenue is acceptable, which it appears to be. What do you think?

Metro finance update

What’s going on with Metro these days?

Although leaders of the region’s transit agency are confident that they will secure $900 million in federal funding to build more light rail lines in Houston, they have begun discussing fare increases and advertising on buses as ways to pay for rail if they do not get the money.

“We are looking at the mathematics of a fare increase to help with completion of the lines,” Metropolitan Transit Authority board chairman Gilbert Garcia said during a visit with the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board Wednesday.

Acting Metro CEO George Greanias did not rule out a fare increase as part of the annual budget the board must adopt in September and said such a plan could emerge as early as next month.

No proposal is in the works, however, Greanias emphasized.

So this is basically a trial balloon. Look for the usual op-ed from Bill King any day now. Seriously, if you do have an opinion, now would be the time to express it to them.

The bit about ads on buses was interesting. Hair Balls makes it sound like that avenue has already been foreclosed.

About five years ago, Metro V-P George Smalley tells Hair Balls, the agency put out a request for bids for bus-shelter ads. The results showed the aforementioned “tens of millions” in revenue and savings over a 15-year period were possible. (The savings would come from bus-shelter maintenance being the responsibility of the winning bidder, not Metro.)

But there were problems: “The effort stalled, in part, because of an existing city ordinance prohibiting commercial advertising in city rights of way, which is where our shelters are located,” Smalley says.

Last year, the agency tried again, this time looking into advertising strictly on buses. Again, no go. “This was during the national economic collapse,” Smalley says. “I don’t recall the specific numbers in the bids, but the revenue potential was anemic and not deemed sufficient enough then to further pursue advertising on buses.”

He says there are no current studies, or plans to further request advertising bids, underway at Metro.

Well, there’s no proposal currently in the works to raise fares, either, so make of that what you will. I blogged about Metro’s previous attempt to do ads on buses, and I still don’t understand the reluctance about them. Heck, I think Metro shouldn’t limit itself to buses but should have ads on light rail cars, too. To my mind, this is basically free money. If school buses can have ads, why can’t Metro buses? Get with the program, I say.

According to the Examiner, there is some decent news for Metro and its financial situation.

[Greanias] called a decline in sales tax revenues a “far greater” concern than a possible change in federal funding or fare box revenues.

Earlier in the meeting, Board member Dwight Jefferson reported that tax revenues were down slightly compared to last year, but were still ahead of projections.

It would be nicer if they were up, but you take what you can get. Most of that story was about Metro modifying a questionable real estate contract with McDade Smith Gould Johnston Mason + Co. For the full details of that, read this Examiner story from a couple of weeks ago. That ought to save Metro a few bucks down the line, but even if it doesn’t, it was the right thing to do. Hair Balls has more.

HISD to do school bus ads

The Chron’s Ericka Mellon writes:

*Advertising could begin showing up on HISD school buses, assuming the board gives the green light, which it will. Only newly elected trustee Anna Eastman raised a slight concern at agenda review. “Our children are so actively marketed to already,” she said. But, she added, “I know it’s a great way to generate revenue.” Communications chief Lee Vela said the ads would target the general public more than the kiddos. As you might remember, cash-strapped Humble ISD jumped into this arena back in 2008.

I do remember, and I feel the same way about HISD doing it as I did Humble ISD. If we’re going to do it, I hope HISD makes a nice profit from it.

Stop for the school buses

My route to and from work takes me through a couple of school zones, and every now and then I wind up behind a school bus and have to stop when it pulls over to discharge some riders. I think everybody knows that when you are behind a school bus and it stops, you need to stop as well, but did you know that the same is true if you’re on the opposite side of the street and you’re coming towards the bus? Well, if you didn’t know that, your ignorance could cost you.

This week, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers throughout the state are participating in a nationwide effort to keep schoolchildren safe. Troopers are riding on school buses and patrolling bus stops looking for violators as part of National School Bus Safety Week, which [ran though Friday].

In addition to troopers and Precinct 1 Constable deputies in Montgomery County, troopers in Harris County are also taking part in the safety program.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: When you see a school bus pull over to the curb, and its lights start blinking, stop. The exception is if you’re on the opposite side of a street that has a barrier in the middle – I presume a median counts, but as the story notes, a two-way turning lane does not. On my normal commute there are no such roads, so stopping is always the correct answer.

The sting part of this effort is now over, but that doesn’t mean you can zip by again. Putting aside the fact that it’s the right thing to do and not doing it puts kids in danger, police officers have been known to sit in school zones at other times as well.

Now here’s a little thought experiment for you. Suppose some entity decided to equip its school buses with cameras. These cameras turn on when the buses stop to pick up or drop off kids – which is to say, during the time when the buses’ red lights are blinking and vehicles are required by law to stop – and turn off when the bus doors close and the red lights stop blinking. If a vehicle is filmed going past the bus, on a road with no barrier, the owner of the car is sent a ticket, which can be appealed through a traffic court. Would you consider that to be a valid enforcement mechanism, or would you insist that the only legitimate way to enforce this law is by having a police officer catch people in the act? I’m just curious.

Where conservative governance gets incubated

This story about area school board elections is both a revealing look at the state of the modern conservative philosophy of how to govern, as well as a stark reminder of why these obscure little elections really do matter.

In Cy-Fair ISD, where six people are running for two seats, challengers are campaigning to protect an optional 20 percent homestead exemption that administrators suggested slashing earlier this year to stave off spending cuts. While candidates say recession-related frustration drove them to advocate for relief for home and business owners, few have specific plans on how to both lower taxes and improve the quality of education.

“I wish I had an answer for that. If I did, I’d be a real politician,” said Cy-Fair candidate Willie Wright, a real estate agent who said she’s running to help build a conservative consensus on the board. “There’s some of us that just have recognized that we need to be fiscally responsible.”

Another challenger, Bill Morris, wrote in a school district candidate questionnaire that Cy-Fair needs to keep its homestead exemption and “encourage morality-based principles in our classrooms.”

Remember, this is the same Cy-Fair that had to lay off staff and drastically reduce bus service because of that property tax exemption. But don’t worry, the magic pixie dust of the free market will rescue them, or something. You Cy-Fair parents who say you want better bus service, I hope you’re paying attention to this.

And just to demonstrate that there’s no idea so bad that nobody will want to copy it:

Backed by residents of the wealthy Royal Oaks neighborhood, the Improve Alief Schools Political Action Committee is pushing for tax relief and academic improvements. At question is the size of budget cuts that would be needed to offset an extra homestead exemption.

Administrators have said the tax break could cost teachers jobs, while the three PAC-backed candidates say it can be done without staff cuts.

Marilyn Swick, one of the conservative challengers in Alief, argued that a tax break could be granted without cutting teachers. When pressed, she said she couldn’t yet provides specific examples of what she would propose cutting.

“People have blown this out of proportion with their own scare tactics,” she said. “I’m running to improve academic standards. I’m not even here to talk about (tax relief).”

In other words, cut the taxes first and ask the questions later. I don’t think there’s anything to add to that.

You don’t get what you don’t pay for

School buses. Who needs ’em?

Homeowners in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district are able to keep their special tax break this year, but now thousands of students are left without school bus rides.

To make a dent in a $14 million deficit, Cy-Fair will no longer provide bus service to most students who live within two miles of their school. The district also is cutting late bus service, which took home students who stay after school for sports, tutoring, band, detention or club meetings.

“It’s putting a lot of people in a bind,” said Cy-Fair parent Angela LeBlanc. She and her husband both have work schedules that prevent them from driving their second-grade daughter to school, which starts at 8:45 a.m.

Cy-Fair Superintendent David Anthony announced the cuts in busing in late July after the school board, under heavy lobbying by homeowners and lawmakers, rejected his proposal to revoke or reduce the district’s 20 percent optional homestead exemption. Anthony said removing the tax discount would have netted the district an extra $45 million this year.

The transportation cuts will make up a small portion of the difference. Cy-Fair spokeswoman Kelli Durham said stopping the two-mile bus runs will save about $2 million. The move will affect some 11,000 children, or 11 percent of the student body.

The district had previously cut 75 jobs to make up part of the deficit. I’m thinking the district’s “great reputation” that Superintendent Anthony was worried about will also take a hit as a result of this.

The Cy-Fair school board did not sign off specifically on the bus changes but voted in late June to give Anthony permission to cut $14.2 million from the budget.

Cy-Fair school board member Larry Youngblood said he supports the cuts in busing, rather than raising taxes. He recalled a call from a taxpayer who said: “Do whatever you have to do. We’ll get used to it. But don’t raise my taxes.”

You have to admire the sense of entitlement, if not the priorities, of that caller. Clearly, he or she had en effect on Youngblood’s actions. Of course, if the only people calling in were like this person, and not those who were going to be adversely affected by this decision, it’s easy to see why it had that effect. How many other school districts that give that extra exemption will see the same dynamic?

Teachers also are worried about the cuts in busing, said Frances Smith, who is president of the Texas State Teachers Association in Cy-Fair. She said she’s not sure how students who don’t have rides or can’t afford cars will be able to make up tests after school or participate in clubs.

“The students that don’t have rides, they’re going to be at a disadvantage,” she said.

I hope somebody keeps track of all the Cy-Fairs out there and their test scores. Maybe if their students’ performance declines noticeably, the residents will demand a reassessment of this decision. Or maybe it’ll turn out that the reason people moved to places like Cy-Fair was really the property taxes, and not the quality of the schools. At least we’ll finally know for sure.