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Finding Millions in Housing Funds, and Speech Therapy Cuts: Thursday’s Show (May 25, 2017)

(Photo: Florian Martin | Houston Public Media) The City of Houston’s Housing Department suddenly has $46 million more for affordable housing projects. How? It started with some investigative reporting from the Houston Chronicle. On today’s edition of Houston Matters, Michael Hagerty has reporters Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris explain. The oversight was uncovered after the Chronicle’s Freedom of […]

(Photo: Florian Martin | Houston Public Media)

The City of Houston’s Housing Department suddenly has $46 million more for affordable housing projects. How? It started with some investigative reporting from the Houston Chronicle. On today’s edition of Houston Matters, Michael Hagerty has reporters Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris explain.

The oversight was uncovered after the Chronicle’s Freedom of Information requests regarding a fund for affordable housing projects the city amasses from its Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, or TIRZes.

Tom McCasland, director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department, also talks with us about how city employees in his department over the last decade lost track of the funds (McCasland has been in the position since last July) and what he’s doing to prevent this from happening in the future.

Also this hour…

Speech Therapy Cuts

New regulations concerning reimbursement rates for services like speech therapy take effect July 1. And some critics contend the cuts could push many providers out of business. Vicki Gilani, a speech-language pathologist in Houston, tells us what this might mean for her and her patients.

During the 2015 legislative session, the budget committee voted to cut therapy reimbursement rates for speech therapy services by nearly 30 percent. Those cuts took effect last December. More recently, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission released new reduced reimbursement rates, which are the ones set to go into effect in July.

A Very Unusual Job Interview

News 88.7 education reporter Laura Isensee has been following how one Houston school is trying to transform education. One thing they’re doing is re-thinking the role of teachers — even how they’re first hired. Laura got to see how they do the interview process — and it may be unlike any job interview you’ve ever had.

Furr High School’s Principal

Then, to get a better sense of the different approach to education at Furr High School, you need to hear from its principal. Bertie Simmons was a longtime educator in Houston schools who’d retired to a happy life as a grandmother. Then, her granddaughter died suddenly in a skiing accident. Simmons decided to honor her granddaughter’s dream of doing good in the world by returning to education and taking over as principal of Furr High School on Houston’s east end.

Then, last fall, Furr High School learned it was one of ten schools nationwide to receive a $10 million grant from Steve Jobs’ widow. It rewarded the school for reinventing how it educates its students. The school is getting the money over five years. As principal, Simmons, of course has played a key role in that reinvention. We talked with her last fall on the heels of the award to learn about her unusual approach to education and how she forged peace between rival gang members at the school.

The Force in Houston

Forty years ago today, the original Star Wars film was released in theaters. We note the anniversary, and listen back to Maggie Martin’s May 2015 conversation with Houston-based Star Wars fan Kristen Lee Ohanyan, who heads up Star Wars and Jedi Enthusiasts of Houston, along with fellow fans Marcus Schaefer and Matthew Shields.

Houston Matters offers a free daily, downloadable podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps.

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