Lone Star Success News

Texas A&M to Maintain Education Accountability System

July 27th, 2015

Susan Combs to ensure underwriting of education best practice

Representatives of Texas A&M University today announced an agreement with Texans for Positive Economic Policy (TPEP) to maintain a measurement tool that helps Texans identify schools making the best use of their tax dollars. The Financial Allocation Study for Texas, better known as FAST, overlays academic achievement with school spending to pinpoint schools offering the best value to their students. FAST also serves as the inspiration for U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s recent amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act, allowing states and local schools to use Title I funds to pay for efficiency reviews, and thereby allowing schools to better serve students without expending additional resources.

“Public education is one of the biggest items in the Texas budget and it’s important to know which schools are delivering the biggest bang for our buck,” said Susan Combs, former Texas Comptroller, architect of FAST, and founder of TPEP. “The FAST numbers allow local communities and leaders in Austin to hold schools accountable and identify best practices that might benefit other schools.”

FAST got its start in 2009 when the 81st Texas Legislature directed the Comptroller to identify school districts and campuses that use resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations. In response, the Combs team — which included researchers from Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas at Dallas — created FAST to help identify school districts and campuses that produce high academic achievement while maintaining cost-effective operations.

“Texas A&M is committed to public education as an investment in future generations and their impact on the state economy,” said Lori Taylor, Director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy, Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. “We’re honored that Susan asked us to continue working on this project, and look forward to making it even better and more useful.”

While FAST was created in the Comptroller’s office, it was not selected for continued funding during the latest legislative session. Given her investment in the program and passion for its useful outcomes, Combs offered to marshal funding through TPEP to continue producing this vital resource. Texas A&M stepped in to help and the program data handoff is underway.

“I believe in the power of quality data to inform good decisions and this approach provides the best available data, whether you’re a young family choosing a school district, an educator looking for best practices or a legislator maintaining accountability,” said Combs. “We will be rebranding the effort as Texas Smart Schools, and adapting to the legislature’s recent changes to the state’s testing environment.  I look forward to a long and productive relationship between TPEP and TAMU.  Together we will make a difference statewide.”