HISD begins reduction in force in effort to deal with $115 million budget deficit

HOUSTON – The Houston Independent School District has started notifying some of its employees that they will be laid off in an effort to deal with a large budget shortfall, according to HISD officials.

The reduction in force is being made in an effort to deal with the $115 million deficit the district is facing.

The number of employees who will be laid off is not known at this time.

The layoffs will be for the 2018-2019 school year.

The HISD board approved the layoffs in March.

"It's never good news when a teacher loses their position, but it's much better news than it could have been," Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said.

While HISD hasn't released any specific numbers, Capo said the figure is likely far less than initially thought.

"We've been able to work with the district over the last couple of months to lower that number of teachers from what was originally thought to be 700 cuts to more like 200 to 250 cuts," Capo said.

The district said the reduction in force will impact teachers, campus-based employees and staff at the central office.

They attribute the cuts to a $115 million budget shortfall because of recapture and possible decline of local property tax valuations following Hurricane Harvey.

"We've known this decision was coming. There's a massive budget crisis in HISD," Capo said.

However, Capo believes with the district hiring on average 2,000 teachers per year to make up for teachers they lose through resignations or retirement, the current teachers affected will still have a job.

"I'm very confident that the teachers that lose their position or a cut right now in the district have a very good chance of getting another position in the district before August," Capo said.

Still, some, like Alma Lara, believe the loss of any single teacher would be detrimental to students.

"I think that this district could provide better education for these children. There's a lot of things going on in this district that are not right," Lara, a retired teacher and principal, said.

Here is a statement from the district:

"The Houston Independent School District faces a $115 million budget shortfall for the 2018-19 school year. The Board of Education authorized a Reduction in Force (RIF) during its regular March meeting, excluding teachers in critical shortage areas. District staff being proposed for RIF began receiving notifications over the past several weeks. Many of these employees will find other positions within the district based on anticipated attrition. Not all impacted positions have been identified at this point. Our Human Resources Department will host several career support workshops available to all affected employees starting May 1. During these workshops, topics including benefits and leave balances, career marketing, resume writing, and interview tips will be addressed. We are committed to working with our employees as they transition into new roles."

Here is a copy of the letter that was sent to employees:

"Our district has been through an extremely challenging year, and as you know, we face an estimated $115 million budget deficit for the 2018-2019 school year – a result of recapture and the potential decline of local property tax valuations after Hurricane Harvey.

"In light of this deficit, the district will experience a reduction in force that will impact teachers, campus-based employees, and staff at the central office. Having a reduction in force is very difficult, particularly when you consider all we've experienced this year. I understand these are stressful and challenging times for everyone, and we are committed to providing assistance to ensure employees continue to be successful beyond HISD. Human Resources will be hosting several career support workshops pertinent to impacted employees, focusing on benefits and leave balances, career marketing, resume writing, and interview best practices. More information on those workshops can be found here. Additionally, I urge anyone affected by the reduction in force to apply to other open positions in the district.

"If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your immediate supervisor."

About the Authors: