HISD Backs Off Budget Overhaul

The move allows HISD principals to largely retain control over how they spend their campus budgets.

The Houston Independent School District has decided to back off plans to overhaul its budget process, letting principals largely retain control over how they spend their campus budgets.

The process will continue to fund schools on a per-student basis, instead of based on staffing.

Still, because of a $115 million budget shortfall for 2018-19, HISD administrators have proposed a cut of nearly $200 per student to those campus budgets. Some of that trim is offset by recent salary increases, according to HISD.

To offset the impact on schools with small enrollments, HISD budget managers have proposed increasing subsidies to small schools by about $11 million, to $18.7 million.

The revised plan walks back a push by former Superintendent Richard Carranza to centralize funding and calculate school funding based on employees, also known as FTE. That approach sought to ensure certain staffing at every campus, such as a nurse, counselor and librarian, and to even out funding disparities among campuses.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told the board of trustees at a budget workshop Monday that HISD received a lot of questions about that proposed budget overhaul, such as how much difference does a nurse or counselor make.

“And so that's another reason why we wanted to pause and just take a step back and then present some recommendations about how do we move forward and engage not only our principals and our teachers but our parents and the greater community around what does a funding allocation — what does it look like for HISD and our community,” Lathan said.

HISD has to close a $115 million budget deficit by June. The proposed cut to school budgets would bridge about $34 million from that. The rest of the cuts are expected to come from central office.

“This in no way fixes the equity issues that we have,” said HISD budget manager Glenn Reed. “This is kind of a band-aid right now to get us moving forward, to try to relieve as much as possible the cuts to as many of the small schools that we possibly can.”

To try and answer some of those equity issues, Reed recommended that the school board create a committee to study how HISD distributes its resources, something he said hasn't been done in over 15 years.


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