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About

TARS: An Idea

The idea for TARS grew out of the discussion between several superintendents
at the Mid-Winter Conference in 1990. A need for representation of rural schools
at the state level was the main topic. Recent gains made by small schools in
that the Legislature was beginning to recognize the diseconomy of scale of small schools
was being challenged by many legislators as wasteful. It was thought that small schools
were inefficient; therefore, attempts were being made to do away with the “small
school formulas/adjustment” and other aspects of funding these small rural districts.

Although many of the small schools were members of other associations, the founders of
TARS felt that schools 1600 or under in ADA and with an agricultural economy needed more
representation. The pre-TARS planning team consisted of then Superintendents,
Bill Grusendorf, San Saba ISD; Wayne Pierce, Rosebud-Lott ISD;
and Jim Payne, Bruceville-Eddy ISD. Over 100 small school superintendents met for the organizational meeting
and selected Grusendorf as the first TARS president. The consensus was that the future
of small schools hung upon two issues: the “small school formulas/adjustment” and the
valuation of agricultural land according to its productivity only.

Small School Formulas/Adjustment

Work performed in 1975, by Dr. Richard Hooker of the University of Houston,
managed to put a small school adjustment into law through HB 1126. Dr. Hooker
at that time was Director of the Governor’s Office of Education and Research
under then Govenor Dolph Brisco. The major impetus to recognize and expand funding
for rural schools during the debate of HB 72 in 1984 came from Rep. Stan Schlueter, both
the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a member of the Governor’s
Select Committee on Education, the so-called “Perot Committee.”

Rep. Schlueter made it clear at that time to both the House and Senate membership
that a tax bill to support HB 72 would not come out of his committee unless or
until small rural schools were treated fairly. Rep. Schlueter, in time,
insisted that Bill Grusendorf, then serving as Chairman of Rural Affairs for
the Equity Center, be a part of and monitor the Equity Coalition that wrote the
finance articles of HB 72. As a result of Grusendorf’s input, we now have the present
“small school formulas/adjustment” and valuation of agricultural land according to its
productivity only.

TARS Now

Since the inception of Texas Association of Rural Schools, major growth in membership has occurred. Presently,
upwards of 500 school districts belong to TARS. The numbers are growing and the course remains steady. TARS
is active with and respected by the state leadership. The association participates by testifying before committees
and its membership carries concerns to their legislators as well as other associations.

TARS Today

Today, TARS is involved in ongoing research that is both meaningful and educational. The research substantiates the
efficiency and need for small schools and has been influential as well in fighting consolidation of our smallest schools.
During the mid 1990’s, TARS was able, with the help of Rep. Ernestine Glossbrenner, former Chair of the House Public
Education Committee, to allow 100% rather than 50% of the small school adjustment to apply to Tier II of the
Foundation School Program. And with the help of Rep. Paul Sadler, also former Public Education Committee Chairman, TARS was instrumental in securing
both a special adjustment to the Facilities Allotment for districts below 400 ADA and credit for K6-K8 schools that pay tuition to another district for the
education of their secondary students.

More recently, in cooperation with the Equity Center and with the help of Chairman
Paul Sadler, TARS has been successful in efforts to make Existing Debt Allotment (EDA) a permanent allotment.
And of course, TARS was at the forefront of obtaining the state-wide health insurance program for small schools and will continue to fight for restoring
its full benefit in the future.

Summary

Thus, the major goal of the Texas Association of Rural Schools is the enhancement of the fiscal capacity of small school
districts while narrowing the gap in the fiscal capacity between small districts and others.

The purpose of TARS is twofold:
1. To impact the state’s school finance and property tax systems so to ensure
equitable distribution of educational resources and tax burdens, and
2. To become involved both directly and indirectly in the policy-making and
administrative processes of federal, state, and local entities (excluding
school districts) by:
a. Monitoring the entities,
b. Conducting the independent research, and
c. Making specific recommendations.

The major thrust of TARS is threefold:
1. To protect the “small school formulas/adjustment,”
2. To protect the valuation of agricultural land according to its productivity only, and
3. To fight efforts toward consolidation of small school districts.

A Challenge

However, to achieve our goal, to promote our purpose, and to continue to protect the right for small schools to exist, we need
your membership and support. Can your district afford to wait? Can your teachers constantly continue to meet the educational
demands that are neither supported nor financed by our present state government? Can your students look to you for educational
guidance and direction in a political environment that threatens their very right to a decent education? We think not. That is why
TARS is here for you and your school community. Join us. We can win! We have done it before and we will do it again. But this
time, you can say, I was a part of that fight; but more importantly, I was a part of that victory!