Education News

In Budget Proposal, HISD Considers Ending Superintendent Grier’s Signature Program

The proposal would shift money from the so-called Apollo program, known for tutoring and extra learning time, and spread it to all campuses with high-needs students.

The Houston Independent School District faces a $107 million budget shortfall for next school year because it has to send more money back to the state.

On Thursday, administrators unveiled initial ideas to cover that gap at a budget workshop with trustees.

To start, HISD would cut how much it spends per student, by $179 dollars each.

Deputy Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer Ken Huewitt said that would save $40 million.

“The philosophy, basically, was to start centrally and then work our way to the campuses,” Huewitt said. “It’s something that we can’t avoid when you talk about a hundred million dollar deficit that you have to cover.”

Huewitt said that they will trim the rest — over $60 million — from central administration and other departments. Some ideas on the table include the teacher bonus program.

HISD also wants to increase another part of the budget — how much it spends for low-income and at-risk students and also homeless and refugee children. In school finance-parlance, those are called “weights” or extra add-on funding based on student characteristics.

“We believe that it takes a little bit more to educate those students,” Huewitt said.

To pay for that, HISD would make a major funding change.

It would stop paying central funds for outgoing Superintendent Terry Grier’s signature Apollo program. It’s known for tutoring and extended days at struggling schools.

Instead, that money would be spread across the district, and all campuses with high-need students will get extra money.

Huewitt said that it’s up to campuses how they spend those dollars. They can still pay for Apollo-type programs, like tutoring, if they want.

“When you’re actually having these deficit talks and really trying to figure out the best way you’re using your dollars, it makes you kind of clean the house and kind of look at things a little differently, and say, ‘OK, if this is all we’re going to have left, let’s make sure we’re using it to make the most impact with our students,'” he said.

HISD trustees must approve a final budget for next school year by the end of June.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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