Why did we start the realignment process?
A focus group composed of teacher representatives and other stakeholders recommended that the state association undertake an area realignment, citing “concerns for member engagement, safety and transportation of members, economics and the needs of the state and area associations and local chapters.” Equity and fairness when it comes to the various programmatic and political processes of the association was one component of the focus group’s recommendation. Managing large delegations at area convention and capacity at area competitive events was also part of the discussions, as some parts of the state have grown, while others have lost population. Finally, there was also significant consideration regarding travel time and obstacles mostly created by urban sprawl in the state’s metropolitan areas.
Who chose the people on the realignment commission?
The board policy which governs the realignment (carefully spells out who serves on the commission:
Teachers were elected from each area to serve on the commission. The Agricultural Consortium of Texas representing the event providers and the VATAT each selected their respective representatives. The chairman of the board of directors appointed the board representatives and pursuant to the policy language, the board of directors elected the commission chairman and vice chairman. The members of the commission are volunteers. Some of the members were in voting positions and others were in ex-officio positions.
- An elected teacher representative from each area.
- A VATAT officer designated by the VATAT
- A representative of Career Development Event providers
- Two business and industry representatives of the Texas FFA Board of Directors
- A representative of the Board of Student Officers
- The AFNR CTE Coordinator, Texas Education Agency, Executive Director of the Texas FFA and Executive Director of the VATAT are ex-officio members of the commission.
What authority gives them the right to decide for the entire state? The ultimate right to decide rests with the delegates convened at the state convention. The Texas FFA Bylaws direct the Board of Directors to consider a realignment every ten years. This language was part of a constitution/bylaw revision approved by the delegates in 2003. However, there was no enabling policy language as a companion to the general language of the bylaws until 2013. The commission is an extension of the Board of Directors, created by the board’s policy and operating as a representative body to bring a recommendation to the board. Upon board approval the recommendation becomes a proposed bylaw amendment. (The board is one of three entities that can propose amendments. The other two are the board of student officers and an area association.)
How did we end up with a map that was never available for comments?
The commission’s public comment forum was introduced with this language:
“The Area Realignment Commission Preliminary Report contains three different map proposals, with the understanding that each proposal constitutes a rhetorical “what if” question and forms a basis for discussion. It should be understood that the final map proposal will likely be a hybrid of the current proposed maps and possible new proposals which surface as a result of input solicited during the 60-day comment period.”
The three maps that were developed and presented for public comment in its preliminary report were posted to invite discussion and dialogue about the realignment process. They were never intended to serve as the final result of the process. Comments and preferences for specific maps were never intended to serve as “votes” for or against a particular map. The map that will go before the delegate body at the 2016 State FFA Convention was a collaboration of the comments, concerns and specific issues that related to equity, potential growth and opportunities for increased member engagement.
How will this affect the election and number of District, Area and State Officers?
The addition of two areas has the potential to create new elected FFA officer positions. The addition of two areas would create additional area officer teams. It is unclear how many district officer positions would be created, since this would be predicated on how the new and re-constituted areas formed districts within the new boundaries. The new areas will meet to establish districts, or in some cases, an area may opt to use the transition to the new area realignment as an opportunity to realign districts. However, one can assume that there will likely be a net gain in the total number of above-chapter-level officer positions. In 1954-55, Texas FFA membership was 37,718. There were ten areas with a number of districts that is only slightly fewer than present day. The number of leadership opportunities above the chapter level was similar to what exists today, but hardly commensurate with the number of members.
The state constitution prescribes one state FFA officer per area subdivision, and therefore it follows that there would be 12 state officers, which will have some budget impact on the state FFA budget to account for a 20% increase in travel and supplies. It would have some effect on the convention schedule as it relates to the election process and scheduling retiring addresses.
How will this affect Leadership Development Events and Speaking Development Events?
Area Realignment would impact Leadership Development Events at the state level to the extent that there will be additional state qualifiers--12 per heat instead of 10. There is some expectation that it will provide some areas to reduce the size of some district competitions. In some of the high-density population areas, some district LDE meets have more than 20 entries in an event, which is daunting for an entry-level competition and creates disparity when comparing participations in award and scholarship processes. Speaking Development Events will be affected similarly.
How will this affect Career Development Events? Area event sites and state qualifiers?
One of the biggest concerns will be location of event providers. Even if the realignment is not adopted, this will be a matter that is discussed in the near future. As it is right now, many of our providers are nearing capacity when it comes to adequately providing a facility that can meet the needs to multiple area contestants at once. With the potential of two additional areas, the number of area teams and contestants will increase, as will the number of area qualifiers advancing to the state level. In most cases, this would not have a significant impact, but it would in a few events such as agricultural mechanics, in which space is already very tight.
What would be the anticipated impact of realignment on the scholarship selection process?
Currently, each area is able to send 25 qualified and two alternate scholarship applications to the state selection process (these numbers are set by the Board of Directors). This makes the total number of applications received each year 250. Adding two areas will increase the total number of applications to 300. In 2016, we will select 145 recipients. Should realignment be approved and implemented, it is likely that the very same applicants would rise to the top of the process, regardless of area affiliation.
What would be in play is the guaranteed area minimum. Texas FFA Scholarship Policy 22.3 (j) states, “No area shall be awarded less than eight finalists.” By adding two areas and still requiring each to be awarded the minimum of eight scholarships, the odds of having to move students up into the finalist pool to meet this artificial, arbitrary quota would be greater. The scholarship committee would likely need to discuss this policy issue. Of course, addition of new scholarship funds would alleviate this issue.
With the increase in the number of total applications received, Texas FFA may need additional time to review scholarships prior to state selection in Austin. This time frame is currently five days (three days to review and send corrections to area, two days for corrections to be made). The application review and finalist selection is currently a one-and-a-half-day process, which may need to be extended to a full two days.
What is the effect of realignment on the award and degree process?
With 12 areas, there will be an increased number of star finalists and John Justin finalists. The state advanced award and degree committee will gain additional committee members from the two areas. Along with the additional applications coming from 12 areas instead of just 10, the state committees should expect to spend additional time reviewing and scoring applications at Degree Check.
How does realignment affect programmatic advisory committees?
The programmatic advisory committees will grow in numbers due to the addition of two areas. The new area coordinators will need to seek out representatives who may not have had prior experience within their previous area. This will not likely affect the functionality of the committees.
How will this affect the VATAT Board of Directors?
If the map is adopted, a reorganization will occur in the VATAT Board structure. Just as in the FFA, there will be challenges in the implementation process. VATAT Directors serve three year terms with the number of directors based on the number of VATAT members in that area. A Board Committee will be named to recommend a fair and equitable transition process. The full board would then have to approve any such plan.
Why don’t we just eliminate the affiliation fee so that our numbers will go back down and thus eliminate the need to realign?
There is no question that the affiliation fee has made an impact on the issue of voting delegate numbers and the subsequent increase in membership is partly a result of the affiliation fee. About 65% percent of the state’s FFA members are in affiliated chapters. However, a number of those chapters were large and had 100% membership before adoption of the program affiliation option. Currently 39.24% of chapters use the program affiliation model, but interestingly the area with the lowest percent of schools participating in program affiliation is the largest. Only 21.21% of Area III chapters affiliate. However, the affiliation fee is not the sole cause of of Texas FFA’s growth. Consider the following:
- The State Comptroller estimates that every 66.92 seconds, someone moves to Texas--nearly 1,300 everyday.
- Public school enrollment has increased by more than a million in the past decade.
- Enrollment in AFNR classes has not only grown due to population growth, but also due to HB5, which scaled back the prescriptive 4X4 graduation plan and placed a greater emphasis on CTE.
- In the past ten years, Texas FFA has chartered 103 chapters, so about 10% of the chapters in existence today are ten years old or younger. While Texas loses a few chapters each year, typically, these were programs in decline with small membership, so the impact is negligible. There has always been a net gain in chapters, and the new chapters are more likely to be vibrant and growing, compared to the chapters that are lost. 8,741 of the state’s members are in chapters which were chartered between 2005 and 2015.
- Participation in LDE and CDE events has experienced a steady growth in the past few years. School districts in the metropolitan areas are building more schools and they recognize the value of FFA programs. Our recent and dramatic growth as a state association is a combination of many factors, all of which can lead to greater member engagement and an enhanced FFA experience for the members who choose to become involved.
Also keep in mind that the realignment is not entirely about growth, but also about the location of that growth. As a percentage of the membership, the rural counties of the state's western counties have declined while the urban and suburban areas have grown exponentially, creating significant imbalance in award and scholarship selection, competitive event delegate allocation.
The following questions relate to the transition process, which is outlined in Texas FFA Policy Handbook, Section 33.
If the realignment policies are approved, when will the new areas take effect?
The realignment process will be phased into place over the next two years with final implementation in the 2018-2019 school year. From the policy:
33.4(a) Teachers shall meet in existing area and district subdivisions at the professional development conference to set dates and times for area and district functions for the upcoming membership year, and meet with the new district and areas for the purpose of approving district alignments and electing a district and area transition teams.
The first step of the transition would occur at the VATAT summer conference. Teachers would meet first in the existing areas make decisions concerning the normal activities of the upcoming year. Then, the teachers would convene for the first time in the new areas and put into motion the transition process. Given the short time between state convention and the VATAT Conference, it is unlikely that a full district alignment place would be ready for one of the new areas, or of the areas which have been greatly modified. To the extent necessary, areas would need to elect transition teams to:
(1) Finalize district alignments pursuant to state guidelines.
(2) Address financial issues related to transfer of assets and establishment of accounts and accounting procedures in accordance to state policies and guidelines
(3) Create district and area student officer transition teams and transition plans
(4) Work with student officer transition teams to develop draft governing documents and policies.
(5) Make arrangements for initial district and area meetings
(6) Develop a plan for an area summer leadership conference
In the case of new areas, it stands to reason that additional area meetings may need to be convened either in person at a central site or via conference call to finalize some details.
What about competitive events during the transition year?
If realignment is adopted, competitive events would not be affected in 2016-17. Next year, would be a preparation year for these processes as areas and new districts put structures in place for 2018-19.
What happens to the assets and money in the Areas and Districts when chapters and members get moved around to new Areas and Districts?
Texas FFA Policy Handbook 33.4(f) A local chapter’s share of the liquid financial assets of a subdivision shall be allocated based on percent membership over the previous three membership years. All transfers shall be made no later than August 31 of the transition year. Disputes related to transfer of assets shall be considered by the Executive Director or Executive Board.
The realignment policy provides for a system to calculate and efficiently transfer funds across area and district lines so that new areas and districts will have financial means to support their membership as needed. These new organizational entities will have to establish new bank accounts and accounting procedures. Transfer of funds would be completed by August 31, 2017. District realignments which were successfully completed in the current Areas 3, 5 and 7 provided a model as to how this might work on a smaller scale.
What about District and Area Officers that are already elected and serving? Do they lose their positions?
No, they will continue to serve through their elected terms of office. A timeline will be established that allows members to become involved in FFA leadership activities in their new districts and areas.
Are there any circumstances under which a chapter could petition to be moved to another area?
The current bylaws provide no avenue through which a chapter could petition the state association for relief of issues of economics, travel time and distance and/or safety. A proposed amendment to the bylaws would authorize the board of directors to create a policy which would allow a chapter to petition the state association for consideration of a temporary area reassignment. The next realignment commission would then consider the placement of the chapter in the next realignment.