It appears another HISD bond proposal looms on the horizon, according to district superintendent, Terry Grier. Although he wouldn’t commit to a timeline, the $4 million facility study recently approved by the HISD school board signals it’s coming in the very near future.

After being told the district needs an additional $150 million in debt to complete projects promised in the massive 2012 bond, the district intends on asking voters to approve even more.

Officials claim the purpose of the recently approved analysis was to assess the facilities and determine what buildings, if any, are in need of improvements or repair. But this will be the third assessment in less than ten years. It raises the question, if public funds are allegedly scarce, is another one really necessary?

The most recent assessment, completed only 3 years ago, led the board of trustees to request an unprecedented $1.89 billion to update 40 facilities across the district.

Leo Bobadilla of HISD claims the evaluation is needed so that his department can create a database to track the maintenance of equipment throughout the district. Allegedly, the database is needed to monitor the life of “chillers” in schools across the city. Are taxpayers to assume they aren’t already tracking equipment?

HISD trustee Mike Lunceford pointed out that Bobadilla’s department was specifically given funds during the last assessment to create the database. It proved to be worthless, however, when failure to keep the system up-to-date resulted in inaccurate records. If bureaucrats weren’t responsible in the past, what makes this time different and why should taxpayers be forced to pay for HISD’s blunder?

When asked if the database would be an off the shelf product, or one specifically designed and tailored to the needs of HISD, Bobadilla had no response. He claimed a study was needed to determine that.

These redundant and blind studies are commonplace in districts across the state, and are used to justify adding even more bond debt to pay for past failures. It’s offensive that tax dollars continue to be wasted on expensive consultants cozy with district politicians to cover up bureaucratic incompetence, neglect or laziness.

Instead of dealing with the high vacancy rate of teachers and low educational standards at HISD’s at-risk schools, the board instead throws taxpayer money at unrelated problems that don’t benefit anyone but themselves and their contractors.

Performing vacuous facility studies, and implementing programs such as PowerUp, which aims to give laptops to all students, may fulfill the superintendent’s need to do something, but indiscriminate spending won’t necessarily translate into benefits for students and teachers. Political posturing and fiscal recklessness may be HISD’s definition of “21st century” education, but their approach is based on an ideology that’s failed for centuries.

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.