The Fast Growth Schools Coalition is a non-governmental organization of school districts that claim to be growing fast. There is also the implication that they are growing faster than other school districts.

There are no requirements for membership, and it would appear that they accept anyone who wants to join.

The purpose of the organization as stated on their web site is as follows:

"The purpose of the Fast Growth Schools Coalition is to provide a voice for specific issues related to growth.  FSCG works extensively with legislators from around the state to encourage sound policy as it relates to public education."

They also invite corporate partners, not only for their financial support, but they also "value their voice and insight as well in helping them develop a shared agenda."

They also have decided that they should call themselves "destination districts" because that is synonymous with the spots that are declared by the media to be where people moving into our state most often go.

They hold annual conferences and winter meetings. 

Their issues include expanding the cap of $.50 that they can use of the tax rate, keeping Americans for Prosperity from getting the Legislature to require that 50% of the population must vote before a bond referendum can pass, and keeping Americans for Prosperity from getting the Legislature to require more transparency of local school district matters.

The Fast Growth Schools Coalition was started by Rick Berry when he was Superintendent of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.  You know, that school district that used its money to build a monster stadium and arena and then named the stadium for Mr. Berry.

Please let me interpret for the reader!

First, one must know that a "non-governmental organization" is one that is funded by taxpayer dollars, but which has no requirements on it to reveal the nature of its meetings or activities--such as lobbying efforts, or any other thing that has to do with its agenda. They do not have to respond to Open Records Requests as real governments do. Go to the web site for the Fast Growth Schools Coalition ( and see if you think it's transparent.  Try to copy off the list of their members.  Try to find what they did at the 2013 Conference.  They are doing everything they can to keep their activities hidden. [Thankfully a new law has been passed to curtail their hidden practices.]

A list of their school district members is below. 

However, I would like to highlight a few of their members and show the reader what is at play here.

First we have Anna ISD.  In 2011 they had 2,278 students.  In 2012 there were 2,343 students.  That's an increase of 65 students or an increase of  2.8%.

Next is Belton ISD.  In 2011 they had 9,232 students.  In 2012 there were 9,509 students.  That's an increase of 277 students or an increase of  1.2%

Next is Comal ISD.  In 2011 they had 17, 140 students.  In 2012 there were 17,721 students.  That's an increase of 580 students or an increase of 3.4%.

Next is Crandall ISD.  In 2011 they had 2,839 students.  In 2012 there were 2,940 students.  That's an increase of 101 students or an increase of  3.6%.

Next is Dickinson ISD.  In 2011 they had 9,055 students.  In 2012 there were 9,320 students.  That's an increase of 265 students or an increase of  2.9%.

Next is Elgin ISD.  In  2011 they had 3,943 students.  In 2012 there were 4,062 students.  That's an increase of 119 students or an increase of 3.0%.

Next is Forney ISD.  In 2011 they had 8,087 students.  In 2012 there were 8,245 students.  That's an increase of 158 students or an increase of 1.9%.

Next is Hudson ISD.  In 2011 they had 2,654 students.  In 2012 there were 2, 714 students. That's an increase of 60 students or an increase of   2.2%.

Next is Hutto ISD.  In 2011 they had 5,394 students.  In 2012 there were 5,642 students.  That's an increase of 248 students of an increase of 4.5%.

Next is Katy ISD.  In 2011 they had 60,573 students.  In 2012 they had 62,153 students.  That's an increase of 1,580 students or an increase  of   2.6 %.

Next is Liberty Hill ISD.  In 2011 they had 2,705 students.  In 2012 there were 2,746 students.  That's an increase of 41 students or an increase of 1.5%.

Next is Lovejoy ISD.  In 2011 they had 3,364 students.  In 2012 there were 3,531 students.  That's an increase of 167 students or an increase of  4.9 %.

Next is Socorro ISD.  In 2011 they had 42,287 students.  In 2012 there were 43,398 students. That's an increase of 1,111 students or an increase of  2.6%.

And last but most interesting is Midlothian ISD.  In 2011 there were 7,540 students.  In 2012 there were 7,521 students.  That's a DECREASE of 19 students or a decrease of 2.5 %.

Let me quickly tell you that I realize these numbers are very outdated, but the TEA does not post the numbers in a timely fashion, and so the numbers for 2013 or 2014 are not yet available. The TEA has not taken advantage of the technological age!

Also, I have highlighted mostly small schools, not to show the modest increases, but to ask if anyone thinks they should be a part of this organization at all!  Surely most of these school districts can take care of an increase of 41 or 60 or 158 students every year without begging the State for more money. Another pertinent fact is that in high growth areas, if there is indeed high growth, the increase in students (and their families) is also usually accompanied by a great increase in the number of businesses which will add to the tax base. This situation is especially true since the law was created for economic development councils which thump for new businesses.  The influx of students is also usually precipitated by new home construction thus also adding to the tax base. 

What this accumulation of members shows me is that this organization will take anyone into their membership, just to have a large number of members, and probably just to acquire their tax payer funded membership fee.  This organization needs to come up with a clear definition of "fast growth."  A "fast growth" school district cannot realistically be a school district that increases by 1.2%!!!!  That sort of an increase indicates someone is trying to scam the Legislature and the public.

Here are the names of all of the Texas school district members of the Fast  Growth Schools Coalition in 2012:

Allen ISD, Alvin ISD, Anna ISD, Belton ISD, Clear Creek ISD, College Station ISD, Comal ISD, Conroe ISD, Crandall ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Del Valle ISD, Denton ISD, Dickinson ISD, Eagle Mt-Saginaw ISD, Ector County ISD, Elgin ISD, Forney ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Frisco ISD, Hays Consolidated ISD, Hudson ISD, Humble ISD, Hutto ISD, Katy ISD, Keller ISD, Killeen ISD, Klein ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD, Lewisville ISD, Liberty Hill ISD, Little Elm ISD, Lovejoy ISD, Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Magnolia ISD, Mansfield ISD, Midlothian ISD, Montgomery ISD, North East ISD, Northside ISD, Northwest ISD, Prosper ISD, Rockwall ISD, Royse City ISD, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, Sheldon ISD, Socorro ISD, and United ISD.

There are 49 of these members.  Think about the school districts that are not there.  One has to wonder why.

Updating in 2016 here is a list of the current "eligible" members:

Aldine ISD, Allen ISD, Alvin ISD, Anna ISD, Barbers Hill ISD, Belton ISD, Boerne ISD, College Station ISD, Comal ISD, Conroe ISD, Crandall ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Del Valle ISD, Denton ISD, Dickinson ISD, Dripping Springs ISD, Eagle Mt.-Saginaw ISD, Frenship ISD, Frisco ISD, Goose Creek ISD, Hays Consolidated ISD, Humble ISD, Hutto ISD, Katy ISD, Klein ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Lamar CISD, Leander ISD, Liberty Hill ISD, Lockhart ISD, Lovejoy ISD, Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Montgomery ISD, Needville ISD, New Caney ISD, Northside ISD, Northwest ISD, Princeton ISD, Prosper ISD, Royse City ISD, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, Sheldon ISD, Tomball ISD, Waller ISD, Willis ISD.

These districts are eligible for membership and surely pay dues but choose not to be members:

Andrews ISD, Bastrop ISD, Bridge City ISD, Burleson ISD, Castleberry ISD, Chapel Hill ISD, Coppell ISD, Ector County ISD, Forney ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Gonzales ISD, Hallsville ISD, Highland Park ISD, Houston ISD, Lancaster ISD, Manor ISD, Medina Valley ISD, Midland ISD, Midway ISD, Pampa ISD, Pearland ISD, Richardson ISD, Round Rock ISD, Seminole ISD, Southwest ISD, Tuloso-Midway ISD, Waxahachie ISD, White Settlement ISD, Wylie ISD-Collin County, Wylie ISD-Taylor County.

One has to wonder at the wisdom of squandering their school districts' tax dollars on an organization from which they apparently cannot derive any benefit! The same holds true for the school districts listed below.

The following school districts pay dues, but do not qualify for membership because of the growth rate requirement:

Clear Creek ISD, Elgin ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Hudson ISD, Keller ISD, Killeen ISD, Lewisville ISD, Mansfield ISD, North East ISD, Rockwall ISD, Socorro ISD, Spring ISD, and United ISD.

Of note is the fact that since I pointed out the folly of this organization and it's lack of a definition of a "fast growth school district," they've managed to make one up!  Here it is [and this is taken from their web site: ]

"To be identified as a fast-growth school district the following criteria musts be met:

1.  Enrollment of at least 2,500 students during the previous school year; and

2.  Enrollment growth over the last five years of at least 10%, or

3.  A net increase of 3,500 or more students.

[I'm amused that this organization for many years had NO criteria for membership.  They were just interested in the body count.  How does anyone justify spending their citizens' tax dollars belonging to an organization that gathered members BEFORE they had a purpose!  It's truly mind boggling.]

Even with the list above it's difficult to grasp exactly who is qualified for membership. 

They need another qualifier that says if the enrollment starts to decline, "YOU"RE OUT OF HERE!!!"

Legislators that give time to this bunch and entertain their ideas are as irresponsible in my opinion as this organization.

At least they managed to get rid of Midlothian ISD whose membership I pointed out above had DECLINED!!!

But back to what I started at the top of the page...

In the stated purpose of the organization on their web site, it is clearly expressed that this is a lobbying organization--but they don't have to adhere to all the rules that lobbyists have to endure, I'm guessing.  Is that fair? They clearly state that they exist to work with legislators to "create sound policy."  Well guess what that "sound policy" is? This lobbying group is trying to coerce the legislature into giving them more money than other school districts just because they claim to be fast growth districts.  They can't even provide a definition for what a "fast growth district" is, and there appear to be no requirements for membership in the organization.  If I were a school district that did not belong to this organization, I would be upset that when there are just so many ways the tax pie can be cut, these 49 school districts are trying to worm their way to the head of the line and cut in front of everyone else!

Expanding the cap of $.50 that exists to keep school districts from spending too much on the items that can be included in a bond issue means that they want to be able to encroach on the M&O (Maintenance and Operations) fund. That fund covers salaries of teachers and other employees as well as keeping up the buildings of the District.  There is absolutely NO GOOD REASON for this cap to be altered.

They also say they have a shared agenda with their corporate sponsors (in 2012) which include RBC Capital Markets, Lee Lewis Construction, Huckabee, Inc (an architectural firm), Pogue Construction, Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson (a tax collection and legal firm), SHW Group (an architectural firm), VLK Architects, Southwest Securities, Pfluger (an architectural firm), PBK (and architectural firm), BTC, Houghton Miflin Harcourt, and First Southwest.   I won't insult your intelligence by asking you why you think THESE particular firms are interested in a Fast Growth Schools Coalition, why they would want to help out financially with this effort, or why they would have a "shared agenda" with them.

In 2016 their corporate partners include at the "Platinum Level" (and they don't say how much of a donation it takes to be at that or any other leve), the College Board, First Southwest, Huckabee, and Pogue Construction. At the "Gold Level" are DLR Group, Lee Lewis Constrction, Inc, and Stantec.  The "Silver Partners" include Achieve3000, Armko, Claycomb, FTN Financial, K12 Insight, Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, LLP, PBK, Pfluger, PiperJaffray, PASA Population @ Survey Analysts, PRLIF Energy Solutions, RBC Capital Markets, William Blair, Samco Capital Markets, Stifel, Templeton Demographics, Underwood Attorneys at Law, VLK Architects.  The Bronze Partners are BGR Architects, Corgan, Cowan-Hill Bond Agency, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McCall, Parkhurst and Horton

 LLP, Mullis Newby Hurst, O'Connell Robertson Opterra Paragon, Parkhill Smith & Cooper, Perdue, Perdue, Fielder, Collins and Mott,

LLP, Powell and Leon LLP, Porlogic, Raymond James, Unify Energy Solutions, Well Fargo, and WRA.

Parents and taxpayers in any school district that is a member of this organization need to strongly question their District's participation in such a scheme.  It doesn't seem like it passes the smell test to me.

And last here is a report put out by Americans for Prosperity--a special interest group that tries to keep governments from spending too much money and from hiding what they are doing:

Who Opposed Local Government Transparency? You Have A Right To Know

June 20, 2013

Cities, counties and school districts along with their associations officially opposed a good government bill which would have provided taxpayer transparency in local government debt. The bill, HB 14 and SB 14, failed to pass in the 2013 Texas legislative session. Taxpayers deserve to know who opposed the bill and what local taxing entities used taxpayer dollars to fight transparency.

The fact is – every local government in Texas which belongs to the Texas Association of Counties, the Texas Municipal League or the Texas Association of School Boards provided funding to those organizations, and those organizations fought local government transparency.

WITNESS LIST for those who signed in opposing local government debt transparency.
HB 14 hearing March 18, testifying against:

Allison, Jim – (County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas)
Burroughs, Mark – (City of Denton)
Chandler, Clayton – (City of Mansfield)
Clark, Lisa – (Self; Texas Association of Builders)
Cohen, Howard – (Schwartz, Page & Harding L.L.P.)
Hernandez, James – (Bond Counsel to Harris County and Harris County Toll Road Authority)
Lancaster, Brad – (
Fast Growth Schools Coalition and Lake Travis ISD)
Lee, Donald – (Texas Conference of Urban Counties)
Leuschel, Jeff – (Self)
Longley, Bill – (Texas Municipal League)
Maxwell, David – (Assoc of Water Board Directors)
Phillis, Peter – (City of Mansfield, Texas)
Rundell, Mick – (Self; City of Georgetown)
Scarth, Danny -(City of Fort Worth)
Simpson, Terry – (San Patricio County)
Streater, Joy – (County District Clerks Assn)
Underwood, Byron – (Texas Assoc. of Counties)
Van Eenoo, Ed – (Self; City of Austin)
Wilcox, James – (Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas School Alliance)

On the Senate side, testifying AGAINST:
Allison, Jim General Counsel -(County Judges and Commissioners Assoc. of TX), Austin,
Burroughs, Mark – Mayor (City of Denton)
Chandler, Clayton W. – City Manager (City of Mansfield)
Cohen, Howard Attorney – (also providing written testimony) (Schwartz, Page & Harding,
L.L.P.), Houston, TX
Hernandez, James – Attorney, Bond Counsel (Harris County and Harris County Toll Road
Lee, Donald – Executive Director (Texas Conference of Urban Counties), Austin, TX
Leuschel, Jeff Attorney – (McCall Parkhurst & Horton), Dallas, TX
Longley, Bill Legal Counsel – (also providing written testimony) (Texas Municipal League),
Austin, TX
Masterson, Harry Developer – (Texas Association of Builders), Austin, TX
Maxwell, David – (Assoc. of Water Board Directors (President)), SA, TX
Rue, Karen – Superintendent, Northwest ISD (
Fast Growth Schools Coalition), Ft. Worth, TX
Scarth, Danny – City Council Member (City of Fort Worth), Fort Worth
Simpson, Terry – County Judge (San Patricio County), Sinton, TX
Underwood, Byron – Cherokee County Commissioner (Texas Assoc of Counties), Rusk, TX
West, Steve – CFO Georgetown ISD (TASB TASA Texas School Alliance), Georgetown,

Registering against but not testifying at the Senate hearing:

Carr, Snapper – Attorney (Andrews County), Austin
Carr, Snapper – Attorney (City of Sugar Land), Austin, TX
Halbert, Wayne – General Manager Harlingen Irrigation District (Texas Irrigation Council),
San Benito, TX
Hale, Angela – Govt. Affairs Consultant (City of McKinney)
Hord, Roger – business manager (West Houston Association), Houston
Hughes, Lisa – consultant (Tarrant Regional Water District), Austin, TX
Israelson, Mark – Director of Policy & Government Relations (City of Plano), Plano, TX
James, Jerry – (City of Victoria), Austin, TX
McCraw, Ken – Executive Director (Tx Assn Community Schools), Cedar Park
Mendez, Mark – Assistant County Administrator (Tarrant County), Ft. Worth, TX
Mitchell, Seth – Assistant to the Bexar County Manager (Bexar County Commissioners
Court), San Antonio, TX
Palmer, Terrell – Investment Banker (First Southwest), Houston, TX
Patterson, T.J. – (City of Fort Worth), Fort Worth
Phillis, Peter K. – Director of Business Services (City of Mansfield, Texas), Mansfield, TX
Robbins, Dean – Asst. Gen. Manager (Texas Water Conservation Assn.)
Short, Jim – Lobbyist (Houston Real Estate Council), Fulshear, TX
Short, Jim L- lobbyist (Fort Bend County, TX), Fulshear, TX
Stout, Bob – (The Woodlands Development Co. / Newland Communities), The Woodlands
Sturzl, Frank – Legislative Consultant, HillCo Partners (City of Abilene, TX), Austin, TX
Sugg, Paul – Legislative Director (Texas Association of Counties), Austin, TX
Thomas, Neil – Attorney (Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.), Houston

Providing testimony against:

Clark, Catherine – (Texas Association of School Boards Texas Association of School
Smith, Michelle – Executive Director (
Fast Growth Schools Coalition), Buda, TX
Tagliabue, Tom – Director, Intergovernmental Relations (City of Corpus Christi)

Registering Against but not testifying at the House hearing:

Anderson, David D – (Arlington ISD Board of Trustees)
Bresnen, Steve – (North Harris County Regional Water Authority)
Carr, Snapper – (Andrews County)
Ellmer, Mindy – (Tarrant Regional Water District)
Halbert, Wayne – (Texas Irrigation Council)
Hale, Angela – (City of McKinney)
Hord, Roger – (West Houston Association)
Israelson, Mark – (City of Plano)
James, Jerry – (City of Victoria)
Kell, Kassandra – (City of Irving)
May, Jennifer – (City of Sugar Land)
McCraw, Ken – (Texas Association of Community Schools)
Mendez, Mark – (Tarrant County Commissioners Court)
Mitchell, Seth – (Bexar County Commissioners Court)
Palmer, Terrell – (First Southwest Company)
Patterson, TJ – (City of Fort Worth)
Robbins, Dean – (Texas Water Conservation Association)
Rue, Karen – (
Fast Growth Schools Coalition)
Shields, Susie – (San Antonio Mobility Coalition)
Short, Jim – (Ft Bend County, Texas)
Short, Jim – (Houston Real Estate council)
Smith, Michelle – (
Fast Growth Schools Coalition, Lake Travis Superintendent)
Stout, Bob – (Newland Communities Texas, The Woodlands Development Co.)
Sturzl, Frank – (City of Abilene, Texas)
Sugg, Paul – (Texas Association of Counties)
Tagliabue, Tom – (City of Corpus Christi)

We hope this sheds some light on local governments’ activities which many taxpayers are unaware of. Your local officials need to hear from you.

Read more:

Article in the Dallas Morning News

FGSC in the Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News posted a well-written article today regarding the challenges facing fast growth school districts. It's worth a read to better understand the 50-cent debt test and capital appreciation bonds. The question we have for the Texas Legislature is this: 85,000 new students are enrolling in Texas schools every year. Will the state help build facilities for those students or will they place the full responsibility of debt on local taxpayers? The time to decide is now.

Fast-growing school districts fear double whammy in Texas House


Staff Writer

Published: 08 May 2015 10:34 PM

Updated: 08 May 2015 10:41 PM

AUSTIN — Fast-growing school districts across North Texas — many of them in Collin and Denton counties — are looking for help building new schools as their student populations boom.

But whether the Legislature will pitch in is in doubt, as time dwindles in lawmakers’ session.

The House will consider two bills next week that districts such as McKinney, Prosper and Little Elm are watching closely. One would let fast-growing districts raise their tax rates beyond the current to pay for bonds to fund construction, if voters approve. The bill faces an uphill battle among conservative lawmakers looking to limit the growth of government spending.

The second measure would limit school districts’ use of bonds that have raised questions in the past, and it’s likely to pass the House as soon as Monday.

The resulting constraints could put a double whammy on districts that need to raise funds to build new schools.

“The students are coming, and you can’t just rely on portables. You have to keep up with the growth,” said Michelle Smith of the Fast Growth School Coalition.

Critics contend the districts need to find a way to work with the money they have now and not burden future generations with bond payments. They are concerned about reeling in rising local governments’ debt, which reached $307 billion statewide last year. About a third of that — the largest cut of the debt — belongs to school districts.

“We’re confident that right now the Legislature is going to do what’s right to address the dangers of local government debt by having more transparency and reining in exotic financing tools,” said James Quintero, an analyst for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

A tax bump

The Denton school district is bursting at the seams with overcrowding at its three high schools. But high school No. 4 won’t be open until next year.

Superintendent Jamie Wilson said ideally, the new campus would have opened this year to keep pace with the steady influx of new students. But the district was bumping up against the limit on the debt service tax rate, which pays for school bond projects. So the high school had to wait.

Currently, school districts are limited to 50 cents per $100 of property valuation for debt service taxes. Fast-growing districts like Denton tend to hit the 50-cent mark more than others because of the constant need to build new schools. But that, in turn, makes it more difficult to borrow money for such projects.

“We would like to ask our citizens to go above that 50 cents if it would allow us to save money on interest in the long run and move forward with projects,” Wilson said. “If the rooftops and families get here before retail and commercial — like it is — then it’s really difficult to pay for the schools that we need now.”

Denton is one of 35 districts in Texas at the 50-cent cap.

A bill by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would allow fast-growing districts to go up to 60 cents per $100 of assessed property value with voter approval only if the district first scored high on the comptroller’s efficiency rating system, adopted an improvement plan and showed how it is saving taxpayers’ money. About two dozen districts would qualify.

“This bill falls right in the line of local control,” Rodriguez said. “We’re not raising any taxes. We’re allowing the school districts to go to the voters to determine if they want it. But apparently, the local-control mantra doesn’t work when it comes to this.”

Quintero, of the conservative group, said districts need to do a better job of managing the taxing abilities they already have rather than extending them. That means not using long-term financing for items with a short lifespan, such as computers and tablets.

“To simply give them more money to put on the credit card is not a smart way to manage debt,” Quintero said.

Controversial bonds

Districts facing unprecedented growth have tried to get creative to pay for construction. Many have turned to a controversial form of borrowing called capital appreciation bonds.

Such bonds don’t count against the district’s debt until they come due in one lump sum, sometimes decades later. But in that time, districts aren’t paying down the interest, so the debt balloons to as much as 10 times what was borrowed.

Critics say such debt could be difficult to pay when it comes due. Further, they worry about the strain it puts on the state, as the bonds are guaranteed by the Texas Permanent School Fund.

“We have a concern that we’ve guaranteed more than what we have funds for,” Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said at a recent legislative hearing on capital appreciation bonds. “If local people want to vote the debt, they just need to be sure they know what they’re voting for.”

The bonds came under greater scrutiny in recent years as they were cited as the reason some California government agencies went bankrupt. The Austin-area Leander school district and others — including some in Collin County — also took heat for their use of these bonds.

Since then, some districts — including Frisco — eased up on issuing the bonds. Still, 99 percent of all such bonds issued in the state last year were for public schools.

Flynn filed a bill to restrict use of the bonds. It would require school districts to be more transparent about the financing, to disclose possible relationships between government officials and professionals associated with the bond issuance, and to limit the bonds to a 25-year maturity date.

The Fast Growth Coalition has supported the bill in hopes of avoiding an all-out ban, such as one offered by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. He noted at a hearing this week that between 2007 and 2011, more than 700 capital appreciation bonds were issued in Texas for a total of $2.3 billion. The future payment on them would exceed $20 billion.

School district officials also say they want to avoid using such costly means of borrowing. But unless the 50-cent limit is adjusted, they are stuck, they argue.

“If they are used in small amounts, then [capital appreciation bonds] are another tool in the toolbox to help,” Smith said. “You can’t sit around and not build when you’re a district like Frisco adding 3,600 kids a year. You have to build.”