A Spring Branch Independent School District board of trustees meeting was shut down after hundreds of community members gathered to oppose closing down charter schools in the district.
The Houston Fire Marshal’s Office closed the meeting, after the room reached capacity, causing a fire hazard.
The agenda item called for the closure of Charter schools KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School, YES Prep Northbrook Middle School, and YES Prep Northbrook High School. Documents showed that the district would have saved approximately $6.2 million if they closed the schools.
Many community members, including parents and students, filled the room to share their opposition for the proposed agenda item.
“When I transferred from HISD to YES Prep Middle School, I was a failing student with severe dyslexia,” said a student at YES Prep Northbrook High School, Sophia Santos. “Due to my family’s support and my YES Prep family and community… I was able to grow academically. I went from failing all my classes at HISD to honor roll at YES Prep Middle School.”
The closures are an attempt to reduce costs within the district.
The district has a budget deficit of $35 million and can no longer rely on state funding to reduce the deficit.
In August, the board voted to stop sending “Robin Hood” recapture payments to the state in an attempt to keep more money in the district.
According to Christine Porter, SBISD’s associate superintendent for finance, the district has sent over $200 million to the state since 2020.
However, Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine is blaming the Texas legislature for the district deficit.
“Our legislators have started a special session in hopes of addressing the funding shortfall for Spring Branch and school districts across the state. That said, we cannot wait and hope that our state leaders will act,” said Blaine, per The Houston Chronicle. “The district is in a position where we must move forward and plan to bridge the $35 deficit. This means we have to make very difficult decisions.”
One parent, Monica Cabarra, spoke at the meeting, asking the board to find other means of cutting costs.
“I am well aware that cutting $35 million from anything is almost an impossible task,” said Cabarra. “However, I implore you to evoke honesty and fairness as you go over your options.”
Despite the community’s pleas, the meeting was closed without further discussion.
SBISD Trustee John Perez posted to X after the meeting was shut down, saying he appreciates the community’s engagement and is disappointed with legislators for lack of funding.
Due to capacity and safety issues, tonight’s @SBISD Board workshop was adjourned early. While the meeting did not go as planned, I appreciate the community engagement and look forward to re-scheduling for a later date and larger venue convenient to the majority of expected speakers. I am disappointed and frustrated we find ourselves starved of funding while legislators fiddle away in Austin. I am committed to voting for what makes most fiscal and operational sense against each community’s need. And I humbly ask our legislators to focus on our students and please get the job done. We are making significant and impactful cuts. There will be disappointment and relief as decisions are made and I hope grace and mercy prevail over fear and anger.
The Texas Legislature is currently considering school choice and education funding measures in its fourth special session.
Spring Branch ISD did not respond to Texas Scorecard‘s request for comment before publication.