HISD parents speak out as board meets to tackle budget crunch, magnet program

By Leigh Frillici - Reporter, Megan Kennedy - Content Editor

HOUSTON - Thursday, the Houston Independent School District school board is considering several items like whether to pay hourly workers for the two days they had off during a recent ice storm and finalizing a contract for rebuilding the damaged schools.  

What's not on the agenda? Potential changes to the school's magnet program.  

More than two dozen concerned parents have signed up to speak out about it during the open comments part of the meeting.

So what’s the potential plan?

HISD is looking at dividing the district into quadrants and offering the same magnet themes in each of the four quadrants.

Unique magnets like Carnegie Vanguard and HSPVA will stay unique, but may not receive the same kind of funding they have received in the past.  

Weight added to low income to get into the unique schools in order to get a more representative student population of the district into unique Vanguards.

How will it work?

The plan would move from a decentralized model where schools receive funding and decide how to spend it, to a centralized funding model called the Full-Time Equivalent model, or FTE.

That could mean that funding will go to the district and the district would, for example, tell principals how many positions they can hire based on enrollment.

Why would the plan change?

The plan is meant to make the funding of schools more equitable and could potentially save money.

The district has a $200 million budget shortfall. That means there will cuts to staff and budgets.

Jolanda Jones, an HISD School Board member and first vice president says the plan would save money on things like transportation.  

For now, school buses carry kids across the district to magnet programs but the buses aren’t always full.

“I'm going to vote for that“ said Jolanda Jones, the HISD School Board First vice president. “I vote to educate all of our kids and not the very small few of our kids that get into the 'right' schools.”

What else would happen in the FTE model?

  • Class sizes will increase
  • Vanguard schools will stay
  • All programs will be reviewed
  • Some programs will be closed  
  • The lottery will be opened for those students whose schools have closed in order to be placed at another school

Why are parents concerned?

Parents feel some of the well-performing schools will be dismantled.

“To cut teachers and administrators... I mean, it wouldn't serve (my son) justice, he studies so hard, he works so hard,”  said Yvette Cantu whose son goes to Carnegie Vanguard High School. “They all do.  It's very discouraging,”

“That they'll lose their certification and that the program will end and that they'll just be a regular school instead of a Montessori school,” said Karl Moyed, a Montessori School parent.

“This is such a radical change to a system that, yes is not completely working, but works exceptionally well for many people,” said LaTrice Ferguson, an Oak Forest parent.

Will kids who got into Magnet programs be allowed to stay in their school if they live in a different quadrant?

For now, the plan is very fluid, but HISD spokesperson, Tracy Clemons tells us that the plan is for those students to be “grandfathered in” meaning they can stay at their schools.

Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.