Tincy Miller calls for Transperancey in Adopting Instructional Materials and Protection of the Permanent School Fund

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alexis DeLee at (512) 633-2620

Tincy Miller calls for transparency in adopting instructional materials and protection of the Permanent School Fund

(Austin) – In preparation for this week’s State Board of Education (SBOE) Meeting, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, SBOE Member for District 12, called for members to maintain transparency in the Board’s adoption process for instructional materials and to consider with caution a recommendation to allow the Permanent School Fund to invest in facilities for charter schools.

Changes to the State’s adoption and distribution of instructional materials were made by lawmakers during the 81st Legislative Session. It is now up to the Board to authorize those modifications. While the law goes into affect in 2010, Miller suggests holding off until the issue has been vetted further.

“Regarding the State’s adoption of proposed materials, I don’t think anyone realized the ultimate effect of this law. Under it, a book can be placed the Commissioner’s List with no public or elected officials’ oversight. We need to ensure that our adoption process is transparent, that it matches the curriculum, and that it is error-free.”

Miller, who has been on the Board for more than 25 years, was instrumental in designing its textbook adoption process, which has been a model that other states have followed. Additionally, she has actively shielded the Permanent School Fund from a number of attempts to use it for purposes outside its original intent. Earlier this month, an idea was put forward to invest in charter schools. Private investors contend that this is not a wise move. Miller agrees.

“The Board’s primary responsibility is to be good stewards of the Fund. While I support charter schools, this proposal could put the Fund at risk because the schools don’t have a good track record for being financially stable. While overseeing the Fund, it is most important that we invest wisely so we can continue paying for the children’s textbooks in perpetuity.”

The Permanent School Fund was created in 1874 to ensure that every Texas student has the most basic classroom resources. The fund generates revenue from oil and gas income on state owned land so that funding for textbooks is not dependent on varying tax bases from district to district. The Board must ensure that the fund remains profitable by making sound investments and by defending it from attempted raids for purposes other than textbook funding. Board members have considered seeking an Attorney General’s Opinion to determine if it has the ability to make investments in charter schools.

In addition to debate about instructional materials and Permanent School Fund investments, the SBOE will also discuss the code of ethics for the Permanent School Fund, various aspects of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English and Spanish Language Arts and Reading, and curriculum and graduation requirements.

The meeting of the full board starts tomorrow at 9 a.m.


Miller Calls for Experienced Investment Team as SBOE Considers Firms to Oversee the Permanent School Fund

For Immediate Release
Monday, July 13, 2009

Alexis DeLee at (512) 633-2620

Miller calls for experienced investment team as SBOE considers firms to oversee the Permanent School Fund

(Austin) – Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, member of State Board of Education for District 12, says that experience needs to be the determining factor in choosing a team to provide Investment Counsel Services and Global Custody and Securities Lending Services for the Permanent School Fund. The Board has been in the selection process for the past year. It has received proposals from a number of fund managers from across the country, and it is set to make a final decision this week at a meeting of the Committee on School Finance and Permanent School Fund.

In her 25 years on the Board, Miller has fought to protect the fund from raids by the legislature to pay for other school expenses. However, equally important is the guarantee that the fund can generate enough revenue to accomplish its purpose of providing free textbooks to all Texas school children.

“The oversight and protection of the Permanent School Fund is one of the State Board of Education’s key responsibilities, as well as ethical transparency,” Miller said. “Therefore, the Committee on School Finance and Permanent School Fund must choose a fund manager with a proven track record. We cannot afford to leave the management of this endowment in inexperienced hands and risk losing such a valuable state asset.”

The Permanent School Fund was created in 1854 to provide free books to Texas school children. It is one of the top 10 endowments in the country and ranges from $17 to $20 billion. As of last Friday, July 10, the market value of the Fund was $18.4 billion and generates approximately $700 to $800 million a year. The Fund has always met the obligation of providing enough money to pay for all the textbooks for each student ($4.6 million) with plenty of money left over to meet instructional needs.

The current Texas system for funding instructional content is a national model because it ensures every child has materials in every subject. Textbook funding is equitable and adequate, and districts do not have to strain up against their tax rates to make sure all students have the learning materials they need.

The SBOE meeting will take place this week from Wednesday, July 15 through Friday, July 17. Discussion of the investment teams will take place on Tuesday, July 14 at 1 p.m. and Wednesday, July 15 at 8:30 a.m. at a meeting of the Committee on School Finance and Permanent School Fund. During the full board meeting, the SBOE will be adopting the new updated curriculum for Career and Technical Education and will receive an update on the new legislation passed during the most recent session of the Texas Legislature. All final votes will be taken on Friday morning.