Highland Park ISD Accused of Falsely Using Teachers to Justify Tax Increase

HPISD elementary school #5 in Univeristy Park. | Image from Venture Mechanical Inc.

When Spencer Siino relocated to Dallas from Los Angeles seven years ago with his family, he was told that Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD) is fantastic. He has since withdrawn his children from the school district, although he is still required to pay property taxes.

“I was blissfully unaware like so many for a long time,” Siino told Dallas Express. “Everything looks pretty. They’re all very friendly and chipper, so it feels very bucolic, but I didn’t understand what was going on behind the scenes.”

Siino alleges that behind the scenes, the priority of HPISD is growing the administration and not on the children’s education.

“There’s administrative bloat when they claim there isn’t, and the enrollment is also an indicator,” he said.

Siino, who formerly analyzed distressed companies, independently evaluated HPISD’s Comprehensive Annual Reports and allegedly found that enrollment declined by 3.1%, the number of teachers declined by 4.9%, while non-teacher employment increased by 18%.

“Since Tom Trigg has gotten here, we’ve increased spending on everything except for teacher salaries and development,” Siino said in an interview. “Investment in teachers has gone down. Everything else has gone way up.”

Siino’s accusations arrive just before election day, November 2, when voters decide whether to approve “Golden Pennies” or not, which HPISD will allegedly use to increase teacher salaries.

“If you vote yes, you’re going to pay 4 cents for a hundred dollars more on your property taxes, but that’s not my problem with it,” Siino said. “My problem with it is that it’s built on lies. We always could have paid that, and the teachers are not going to be paid competitively. It’s a coverup for what the administration has already done.”

“A Golden Penny Election” creates a tax increase that the State of Texas cannot recapture.

Dr. Tom Trigg, the superintendent who began overseeing the district in 2016, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We wanted to move to a community like this in Texas where the board runs the school districts in partnership with the PTA, and what we found is that the independent model has been hijacked by organizations that are designed to protect superintendents and their administrations,” Siino said.

After Siino posted his findings to a Facebook group called Parents Unite, HPISD responded with a rebuttal, which is posted on the school district’s website.

“HPISD general fund classroom instruction costs (the majority of which are classroom teachers) increased from $36.4MM to $38MM during the last five years – an increase of $1.6MM,” the rebuttal states, in part. “This happened despite a decrease in enrollment of 217 students and a decrease in the total number of teachers as a result of decreased enrollment. This information can be found in Schedule C-3 of HPISD’s most recent audit. The chart that is circulating compares teacher costs vs. other “non-teacher expenditures” but leaves out important information. The chart used is from a supplementary table in the audit includes food service and safety/security costs which are, to a great extent, reimbursed by external organizations, such as the PTAs.”

But Siino said his analysis has been misconstrued.

“That’s a logical fallacy they are employing,” he said about HPISD’s rebuttal. “It’s a strawman argument. They framed a question that the community is asking, but they framed it wrong intentionally. They are deceiving the community.”

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1 Comment

  1. Generations Old HP

    My apologies.


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