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Since Monday afternoon and continuing this afternoon (Friday, July 2), Aledo ISD school board trustees, led by trustee Bobby Rigues, have set up shop on FM1187 getting signatures from area taxpayers for the board’s initiative, “Make Education A Priority.”
Rigues - with complete support of the Aledo ISD board of trustees - started the grassroots effort to inform the public of the limitations Austin and its state legislators have put on school districts.
The “Make Education a Priority” catchphrase calls for taxpayers in Aledo ISD and across the state to contact their local legislators and senators to help repair a funding system that was put in place in 2006.
The Aledo ISD trustees have printed thousands of form letters for taxpayers to sign, and each letter will be taken to Austin by the board of trustees.
Aledo ISD, which has earned a “superior” rating by independent auditors for the last eight years, is directly affected by the funding system that began with HB1.
Because of the state-funding model, the Aledo district has had to cut 15 teaching/staff positions and issued a five percent pay cut to teachers, staff and administrators.
Aledo ISD school board president Joe Dearing accompanied Rigues on Friday as the pair collected several signatures.
“It has been interesting, and I have had a chance to talk to some people and explain some things,” Dearing said. “The people ask really good questions, and for the most part everybody has been real supportive.
“A lot of question concern the understanding of how school finance works. There is no way you can explain school finance in a five-minute conversation – it’s such a complicated monster – but I have just been trying to explain on layman’s terms of where we are at, how we got here and how we are going to get these letters to the legislators and senators in Austin for them to understand there is a need in Aledo to keep education important.
“Bobby started this, and I am here today assisting him (as have other trustees throughout the week), and he has been here all week through the rain and sunshine.”
Rigues, who has stayed at his “post’ until midnight each day before returning before “rush hour” traffic the following morning, said with each passing day more taxpayers and concerned citizens have stopped to sign a letter.
“It has been a steady increase each day,” Rigues said. “But we have to contribute that to the community under the invent of texting and emailing (to get the word out about the letters), but mostly the popularity of Facebook.
“The word has spread, and some people have come by and picked up several blank forms – 15, 20, 30 at a time – and it is really amazing.
“The community has picked this thing up and ran with it. The (Aledo ISD) board of trustees have made it an initiative to make this thing happen, but it is the community that makes it work.”
During this marathon, Rigues said several people have stopped by to give him breakfast, lunch and dinner. He said he has enjoyed explaining the initiative, as well as the facts surrounding the upcoming tax ratification election, to concerned taxpayers.
“Folks have been real nice about bringing the food by,” Rigues said. “But the best part of all this is the communiqué (with the taxpayers) where anyone who stops can ask questions and show support.
“I think the best word to describe it all is ‘awareness.’ They are now aware, they understand the plight, and they are very, very supportive of teachers. Most everyone I have talked with will do anything they can for the teachers.
“This experience has given us the stimulus to continue. What we will do is keep this going, and when school starts in August, we will come back and campaign and take advantage of a ‘Meet the Teachers Night’ and set up individual stations at each campus.
“That is where we will get to the conclusion of the rest of the signed letters and our goal of 4,555 signed letters. Then the Aledo ISD board of trustees will respectfully hand deliver each signed letter to state legislators in Austin.”
The number 4,555 represents the number of students attending Aledo ISD schools.