HISD Officially Unveils Its Proposed 2014-15 Budget, Which Changes the Magnet School Funding Equation

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At the last school board meeting on May 8, there was a long line of people protesting propsed changes in magnet and vanguard school program funding.

Basically, in testimonial after testimonial from students, parents and teachers, the message was: Why are you trying to destroy programs that have been working so well at some schools?

"I see nothing equitable in funding zero dollars for Vanguard students," said speaker Susan Dietrich. She called for a more equitable funding allocation instead of "giving a few programs ten times, 20 times, even a thousand times more than other programs.

Canegie Vanguard student Raquel Douglas said the budget cuts at her school would "incapacitate" it.

But as Superintendent Terry Grier sees it, and it's been how he's seen it since arriving here in 2009, the present magnet school funding method is inequitable and while dandy for some lucky kids, has meant others aren't getting a fair amount. He wants to spread the wealth, which means more for some and less for others.

According to HISD Superintendent Terry Grier:

"Our proposed magnet funding formula is focused on increasing equity across all of magnet and specialty schools. This change allows us to ensure that each of our magnet and specialty programs has the ability to succeed, allowing us to offer more students access to programs that focus on their interests," Grier said.

Under the proposal:

Schools would receive per-pupil funding based on their level and theme. Additionally, each school would receive a magnet coordinator regardless of their funding levels and transportation for students. The district's 15 Vanguard programs would receive $410 per-pupil in addition to the $406 for each gifted and talented student as a result of the weighted student funding formula.

Toss in the other variable of we need to give entry-level teachers a raise from $46,805 to $48,400, and you've got even less money to work with in the budget. Administrators say they have a tough time competing with surrounding school districts, who tend to pay more for beginning teachers.

The changes would be phased in over the next two years. "During the 2014-2015 school year, schools that expect a shortfall in their funding will only see 25 percent of the reduction. Likewise, programs receiving an increase in their magnet funding will only see 25 percent of the increase go into effect next school year. The new funding will be fully phased in by the 2015-2016 school year," an HISD press release said.

All of which has to still by approved by the school board by June 19.

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