Last week, House and Senate lawmakers met in a public hearing of a special session on school finance and budget matters. It dealt with a plan that failed to pass in the waning moments of the regular session, that changes the distribution formulas for public schools. It spreads a 4-billion dollar cut over two years, a 6-percent across-the-board cut in 2012, and another 2-billion in targeted funding in 2013.
Sue Diegaard, mother of 2 elementary school children in HISD
Sue Diegaard has two children in HISD. She repeated to reporters here what she told the House Appropriations Committee hearing in Austin.
"The legislature may have reached a consensus to cut only 4-billion dollars from public education, and think that we will consider it a gift that they did not cut the 10-billion dollars that was originally proposed. But it is not a gift. They are still cutting per pupil funding below what is required by current school funding laws."
Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers says lawmakers might think the cuts are for extras that kids will have to do without, but they're not.
"When you look at the cuts and see what we won't be having next year, we're talking about special ed, elementary P.E. teachers, art, music, librarians, nurses, cuts in pre-K, severe cuts in career and technology with programs closing that kept children in school."
president of Houston Federation of Teachers
HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier says he thinks Houston is being punished more than other school districts in Texas for having such a low tax rate.
"It's tough times. And you understand and I understand how hard the economy is not only here in Texas, but nationally. But I also see that we have 4-billion dollars still left in a rainy day fund that was established just to keep these kinds of situations from occurring. So it's very perplexing, I think it will end up in the courts. I think our elected officials know it's gonna end up in the courts, and that's why they're not doing any more than they are."
Another concern is how much money the HISD could spend in litigation if it does sue the state. It's money the district cannot afford to spend.