In advance of Houston ISD’s upcoming budget, officials are making a wide variety of cuts across the district to minimize the inevitable $107 million budget shortfall.

One of the programs to hit the chopping block is former Superintendent Terry Grier’s signature program – Apollo 20.

Apollo 20 was launched in 2010 to “prepare HISD students for college and career success.” Though the program was kicked off with $16.8 million in initial funding, it simply hasn’t proved to be the success Grier intended it to be.

Aside from program reduction, interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt is eliminating over 250 positions out of nearly 2,000 from the facilities department.

This is the same department that received repeated reports of waste and mismanagement, but ignored those claims and instead reprimanded the whistleblower, Frank Hodges.

Although the district has a grossly overpaid administrative department, HISD schools have long been underfunded and understaffed. Of the 284 campuses in the district, 39 do not have an on-site nurse, 151 lack counselors, and 193 are without librarians.

And yet, HISD’s trustees deem it acceptable to spend $250,000 per school to rename campuses named after confederate figures, without any deliberation or analysis of the cost implications.

Officials blame the shortfall solely on the state’s Robin Hood funding scheme. But in reality, it is a creation of two fundamental problems—a progressive governing philosophy driving over-spending, and the school boards enthusiastic willingness to rubber stamp district administration as opposed to providing oversight and accountability. Over the years the board has passed through additional spending while scoffing at the notion that cuts in any area may be necessary.

One of the most notable examples of the board’s incompetence was the mismanagement of repeated bond programs, which were rampant with collusion, corruption, waste, and mismanagement. The board shrugged off responsibility and instead punished taxpayers with yet another debt proposal.

Because of their cavalier attitude, the state’s largest district is facing a massive deficit that will take even more significant cuts to repair.

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.


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