As Houston ISD officials scramble to close their Robin Hood-induced budget gap, trustees are pushing a costly backbench issue to the forefront – the renaming of a number of district campuses.

Despite vocal outrage, HISD trustees voted last month to rename seven district campuses currently named after confederate leaders.

In a district that isn’t burdened by corruption and debt this push should draw ire because it represents an attempt to sugarcoat history. But considering the dismal state of affairs HISD has imposed upon itself, it should be anything but a competing priority.

Attempting to determine the cost of the name changes was all the more maddening.

Both HISD’s Public Information Office and Press Office, when responding to an inquiry about the costs associated with the change, said it “wasn’t determined” yet. The notion that district trustees voted on such a massive undertaking before considering (or even investigating) such an expense is unfathomable.

Following that response, we reached out to Board President Manuel Rodriguez who was the only official who had an estimate. Rodriguez said that each name change was estimated to cost around $250,000 — or about $1.75 million for the whole project.

In addition to unnecessary spending, a general lack of oversight, cost overruns, and a history of hiring questionable vendors, a lack of inter-district communication can now be added to the growing list of concerns plaguing the credibility of HISD’s school board.

District officials are focusing more on being “social justice” warriors than fiscal stewards acting in the best interest of the taxpayers and the students they serve. Rushing through emotionally charged, feel-good measures while failing to address employee concerns — all while ignoring a $200 million bond shortfall and a $105 million deficit— is at best, grossly irresponsible.

The inefficiency of HISD would be laughable if it were anything but a public entity.

Sadly, HISD’s problems are largely self-inflicted, and while some board members were voted out during the last election cycle, it doesn’t appear the new ones are adequately refocusing the board on their fiduciary responsibility to represent taxpayers.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.