Recently sweeping changes were proposed to HISD’s magnet programs. Changes that were unexpected and largely unwelcome. Like most things involving the government, there is a lot of information to wade through. Is it purposefully bloated or just the way of government, who knows? Unfortunately, it is up to you to become the expert.
The headlines loom about the magnet program, but in reality, all of HISD is looking at an unprecedented belt-tightening.
HISD says the changes are necessary due to a poor financial outlook – they need to cut $200 million dollars from the 2018-2019 budget.
Recapture payments are a statewide mandate that requires districts with high property values to share with lower income districts. Unfortunately, even though enrollment is down and buildings are unusable from Harvey, the payments must still be made.
The magnet programs were also addressed though not necessarily as a direct result of the funding crisis. Here the proposed changes are cited due to a committee in charge of evaluating the programs.
What are the Changes?
- Leveling staff based on student-to-staff ratios, across the district
- Central control of all funding. Currently, schools are given a yearly monetary allocation and then the spending is left to the discretion of each campus. The proposed changes would set the amount of staff based on student enrollment and the district would pay them directly.
- Under the current magnet programs, system schools can be created as desired. The new system would create two magnets: Unique (which would accept district-wide applications) and Feeder (that would begin in elementary and feed into a middle, then high school).
- Saving money.
- More oversight of money. Each school will have the same resources. If one has music teachers they will all have music teachers, not merely if the principal decides to hire one.
- Creating more desirable magnet programs and doing away with less popular options. The district would be divided into quadrants and each region would offer the same types of magnets (such as the arts or sciences). Each type would have an elementary that fed into a middle and subsequently, a high school.
- Making magnets more accessible to all income and ethnicities.
- If your child is in a magnet he or she should be grandfathered in.
- Significant potential staffing cuts.
- Vanguard programs and schools would no longer be magnet schools which means they would lose the extra funds given to magnets and gifted and talented students. This would reduce the number of magnets from 115 to 85.
Could Roll Either Way
- Admission preference to economically disadvantaged students to magnet programs.
- Eliminate many academic and testing requirements that are required to be completed by students before they can enter the lottery.
A district facing a $200 million dollar cut is one that needs to be monitored. The cuts may be drastic but it is has become clear that HISD’s hiring of Superintendent Richard Carranza is because they need someone to make big decisions. If you do not want your child’s programs cut or your local school’s ability to hire staff as needed then you need to pay attention to this issue and make your voice heard. Your greatest impact on politics is at the local level and if you assume someone will take care of this for you it may be a sad day in April when you realize that you need to have to deal with the aftermath. The vote could happen as early as March. Oh yeah, and they’re getting ready to ask you for a billion-dollar bond…
Houston Chronicle: “Houston ISD proposes drastic changes to school funding, magnet programs,” January 22, 2018
- KPRC: “Q&A: Why HISD has $200M budget shortfall, “ January 22, 2018
- The board meeting cand be watched HERE and will be rebroadcast on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Comcast 18 and Uverse 99.
- HISD Parent Advocates