Misuse of Funds Makes for a Bad School District

While politics might always be an issue that is carefully tiptoed around when it comes to a casual conversation; one thing that a majority of reasonable people on both sides of the aisle agree on is that the education system in our country is extremely important for the betterment of society as a whole.

However, with funding for education being slashed across the country, often public school districts must find creative ways to invest the smaller and smaller amount of funding they have to properly provide for its students. So, having graduated from the Texas public school system back in the year 2016, I felt that it was my responsibility, nay, my duty, to report on the groundbreaking and clever use of funds that my hometown’s school district has done in order to make for a focused and effective education system.

I hail from the great state of Texas, in a suburb called Frisco forty-five minutes north of Dallas. Originally nothing more than farmland and a train station, Frisco has rapidly expanded within the last twenty years, turning wide open fields as well as “Mom and Pop” restaurants into superstores, corporate coffee shops, and apartment complexes of exponentially increasing height. 

As most of the new residences of Frisco are commuters on their way to and from their offices in Dallas, Frisco faced a problem of a huge influx of kids in desperate need of a place to go to school. Only one high school was clearly not enough for the ever-growing number of students (as of the beginning of this fall semester, Frisco Independent School District has over 62,000 students enrolled in their schools). So began the rapid construction of schools across the city, currently sitting at ten high schools for the sixty-two square mile city of Frisco. 

If you’ve had the pleasure of attending an American public high school, this following paragraph might hit close to home. Because even though I’m from one of the more well-off places to grow up in the country, underpaid staff, outdated textbooks and many other problems still plagued my high school experience while my football program thrived.

While I can be thankful and say there was never a time in going to school at Frisco I ever felt unsafe or in danger, the school district’s use of funding shows an alarming amount of misplaced goals for the district, especially once a large financial decision was made in 2016.

While Dallas doesn’t boast glitzy tourist destinations, our consistently underperforming football team is one of the most recognizable in the world. So when their owner Jerry Jones announced the plans for a new and improved practice facility, the talk in Dallas was centered around where the facility would set up shop. As Frisco was putting the finishing touches on their recent eighth high school in town, the venues available for Friday night football suddenly were not enough, and school district execs began making talks with Jones to see if they could use the practice facility for high school football games and graduations.

A deal between FISD, the Cowboys, and Nike was made, and to fulfill their end of the bargain, “Frisco ISD contributed $30 million toward the construction of ‘The Star,’ a joint effort among the Cowboys, the district and the city.” With this deal, FISD would be able to have their logo on certain parts of the stadium, as well as the occasional use of the facility for a UIL event. Making a deal with the Cowboys also meant a deal with Nike, which meant for mandatory Nike sponsored uniforms for all of the district’s football teams, but “ironically, the Nike deal does not include shoes. Frisco ISD requires students to provide their own.

I can already hear the corporate apologist’s counter-arguments; “I don’t see the issue here, the district is able to do events at a state of the art facility and the teams get new uniforms out of it.” Well to that my dear reader I ask a follow up question: Why is my former school district spending over four million hours worth of minimum wage on an event venue when there are art programs in its schools that had not seen a boost in funding in multiple years? Why are there non-functional bathrooms in schools when the school district clearly has the money to fix them? Why did I spend my high school career looking at sponsored advertisements from companies that paid my district for my eyes and attention to their product? 

I know I’m ranting. But the questions still stand. Why do school districts across the country claim to not have the funding to properly have their schools function to their best ability while making outrageously expensive deals with massive companies and corporations? To this, my dear reader, I can only leave you the question. Because as to why school districts across the country are misusing their funds and keeping young students from reaching their full potential is beyond the comprehension of this frustrated writer.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Charlie, We have a very unique tax base in Frisco, known as the TIRZ that allows for us to utilize funds like those that we used for The Star, for public/private partnerships ONLY. We are not able to use these funds for maintenance and operational expenses in the district like salaries or school buildings. We can only use it for unique opportunities like that of The Star/Ford Center. So instead of building a $100M stadium like most of our surrounding districts and being solely responsible for the upkeep of that type of facility, we partnered with the City and with the Jones Family on this incredible opportunity for our students. To learn more about the TIRZ, please feel free to watch this video put together by FISD’s CFO:
    https://www.facebook.com/friscoisd/videos/10153951925880819/

  2. Charlie, the tirz allows us to use the money for deals like the star or any other public school capital cost. New furniture for open classroom for learning, new schools, new security cameras and future learning computers, as well as buses.

    You mentioned the star. We also have bond from the tirz paying for FC Dallas and a upgrade for the soccer museum, the event center next to embassy suites, and rough riders stadium. And we have a bind issued for the new pga course.

    While this decision is local, it impacts state wide funding for education. This means Frisco ISD is one of many districts doing so. FISD has one TIRZ, Dallas has 10, Houston has 20, and Chicago public schools have 1,000. Thank you for shedding light on how school districts blame the state for funding while using desperately needed funds for vanity projects that do little for our kids collectively.

  3. The money used for the stadium is in a different pool than the money used for teacher salaries and maintenance. Do your research before complaining on the internet.

  4. I love when folks talk out their rear about things they don’t know about. The STAR from a Frisco ISD perspective actually enables more money to be spent on ARTS, as it did not have to build a 3rd stadium. At a 30M upfront cost, and not cost of maintenance, the STAR is a home run in school finance that allows more operating money to goto things like arts, teacher salaries, etc… I only wish your education would have taught you to research before writing this article. Better people think your a fool than to open your mouth and prove them right.

  5. Well… there is a bit more to the story… The TIRZ fund collects the incremental taxes of the 700-acre area around Stonebriar Mall (true), but these are funds that WOULD have been collected and utilized within the FISD general operations fund had the TIRZ not been created. Each year, the district takes the tax revenue associated with the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone and sends those funds from the M&O (Operations) fund to the City of Frisco to cover the bond payments for the district’s various partnership deals. The amount is approx. $22M per year (the amount varies depending on the assessed property value and the district’s tax rate). The district does have the option (should they so choose) to amend the current agreement and reduce the contribution of tax funds to the TIRZ–it’s currently set at 100%–which would boost the revenue for operations spending. But, it’s important to note that funds in excess of the bond payments are reimbursed to Frisco ISD for use in capital expenditures (they cannot be returned to the Operations fund). Bond payments to the City have ranged around $5.3M per year, so that means nearly $17M is returned to FISD for use in the repayment of debt for things like all those new school buildings. The jury’s still out on whether a cost/benefit analysis would truly reflect a positive outcome once you factor in such items as the cost associated with stadium rental fees that are part of the bargain. But in Frisco, it’s about making a statement and many would argue playing at The Star makes a huge statement. Nonetheless, Charlie, your point is well taken and there are actually quite a few people who agree with you.

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