Lately we have been calling attention to the miserable financial condition of our local school districts, which have an unquenchable thirst for bond money. They have little financial oversight compared to the other taxing entities even though they consume more than 40% of our property tax.

The latest calamity comes from the Socorro Independent School District, which on January 23 revealed that their budget for FY 2023-24 has a gaping $33 million hole.

Incredibly, some months earlier the SISD Faculty Advisory Committee presented a request to the Board of Trustees for a $768 million general obligation bond, which would be the largest in the history of our region. They seem to think the taxpayers will provide them with whatever they wish without questioning their assumptions or motives, because it’s all about the children, right?

The district is the second largest in El Paso County, with approximately 48,000 students spread among 49 campuses. It has been suffering from administrative chaos, with Superintendent Nate Carman announcing his departure for a job in Gilbert, Arizona at the end of this academic year. Carman began his current position in February 2022 after signing a three-year contract with a salary of $335,000 plus benefits.

Item 6 of the latest Board agenda identifies eight separate investigations by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), including an inquiry into how 29 students graduated in May 2019 without meeting state requirements.


Yesterday we learned that the Board of Trustees voted to request that the TEA take over the SISD and appoint conservators to oversee its operations. According to Claudia Lorena Silva of El Paso Matters, this happens “when districts or charter schools don’t meet state standards for accreditation, academic performance or financial accountability standards, or as a result of a special investigation.”

Let’s not try to sugar coat this. The Superintendent and Board of Trustees of SISD have proven themselves to be utterly incompetent as they cannot even balance a budget.

Nate Carman should be terminated immediately and the entire Board of Trustees dismissed.

Of course, we all remember what happened to EPISD in 2012, when that district was taken over for three years by a state-appointed Board of Managers led by Dee Margo, who was a terrible administrator and an even worse mayor..

For those who think charter schools are managed better, we just learned that the TEA just appointed a conservator to manage the IDEA Public Schools, a charter network based in the Rio Grande Valley with campuses in El Paso, after an investigation found financial and administrative incompetence.

Of course, the American Federation of Teachers in Socorro is very concerned about the TEA takeover of SISD, which may result in cuts to employee pay and benefits. Socorro AFT President Veronica Hernandez told KVIA: “I was very surprised. Devastated, more than anything… that we have fallen into such a position where we’re having to have TEA come in and oversee.”

She stated her opposition to the TEA takeover and spoke about the potential impact on teachers and administrators without, of course, expressing any concern for the welfare of the students who are receiving an education with metrics that are well below the Texas average.

Don’t you feel glad that your property tax is supporting an excellent educational system and that your children are in such good hands?

We favor a top-to-bottom independent audit of all nine school districts. They should be consolidated into only three districts–EPISD, YISD, and SISD–with new rules requiring that at least three members of each of the boards of trustees have accounting or business management credentials. The hundreds of unneeded administrators should be laid off, the unneeded assets sold to the private sector, and the resulting savings returned to the taxpayers in the form of a lower property tax, with some of the funds allocated for increasing the salaries of deserving teachers.