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Despite Deficit Concerns, Houston School Board Passes Budget

The Houston school district is bracing for more financial challenges next year for 2019-2020, with increasing payments to the state’s school finance system and another shortfall of about $50 million.

Grenita Lathan comments during a library dedication at Attucks Middle School, January 18, 2017.
Grenita Lathan comments during a library dedication at Attucks Middle School, January 18, 2017.

The Houston school board unanimously passed a $2 billion budget for the 2018-19 school year, less than a week before the state’s deadline, at a special meeting Monday morning.

While the spending plan includes over $80 million in cuts, it still has a deficit, which several trustees say they want to avoid in the future.

About $33 million of those cuts come from classroom spending. The rest will affect central administration at the Houston Independent School District.

What concerns trustees the most, and why some say they rejected the budget before, is deficit spending. 

“So that’s what concerns me — and that was the issue the last board meeting — was the balanced budget,” said Trustee Elizabeth Santos. “We have to do better moving forward so that way, long-term health, our students always should come first.”

Next school year’s budget includes a deficit of just over $17 million. That’s slightly less than the deficit estimated in the previous budget, which a majority of the board rejected earlier this month. The board saved money when it decided to have a state agency review its performance, instead of seeking outside, independent auditors.

The Houston district’s budget manager Glenn Reed told reporters that he expects to cover that deficit with savings from other departments — and not reserves.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told the board that she wants to have a better budget process next year. She said that a committee will start studying this summer how the district allocates its resources, and part of that group will examine spending for magnet, or specialty, schools. Lathan said she hopes to have recommendations by December or January.

In addition, Lathan said the district plans to have regularly scheduled board workshops on the budget throughout next school year.

“I, too, agree we need to move in the direction of a balanced budget,” said HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones.

The Houston school district is bracing for more financial challenges next year for 2019-2020, with increasing payments to the state’s school finance system and another shortfall of about $50 million.

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Laura Isensee

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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