HISD Trustees Make Several Changes to the Administration's Budget Proposal

Trustee Anne Sung reconfigured some numbers to make the amendments the trustees wanted possible.
Trustee Anne Sung reconfigured some numbers to make the amendments the trustees wanted possible. HISD-TV screenshot
Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan watched Thursday night as the majority of the school board, helped in part by trustee Anne Sung’s mathematics skills, rejected her refusal to redo her 2019-20 budget and passed one with  significant amendments that reset priorities on pay and funding.

In the end, by a vote of 5-1 they approved a budget raising the lowest level workers’ pay to $14 an hour – not the $15 an hour some trustees wanted but still more than the current $12 an hour Lathan said the district could afford. Lathan's budget was initially introduced on June 18 and rejected by the board on a 6-3 vote.

The interim superintendent had called a press conference on Wednesday where she announced she was standing firm on her budget proposals, warning that any departure from what her administration had set out would result in layoffs.

The majority of trustees then set out to work around the line in the sand she had drawn, counting on additional funds the district is receiving as a result of the passage of House Bill 3 by the Texas Legislature.

Their amendments included:

— $17 million in department cuts but calling on the school district's fund balance to cover any need for staff reductions.

— The raise in pay for support staff in positions such as custodians and maintenance positions.

— No raises for staff members already earning more than $75,000 a year. As a solace each of those folks will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000 and two extra vacation days.

— An increase in the funding weighting formula for English Language Learner students as proposed by trustee Sergio Lira.

Declaring that she doesn’t like amendments to proposed budgets and don’t think trustees should be making them, Board President Diana Davila went on to say that this had happened because the administration refused to listen to its board.

Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Jolanda Jones and Wanda Adams were not present for the budget vote which had to be scheduled to make the state-mandated deadline of June 30 to have an approved budget. Trustee Holly Marie Vilaseca was Skyped in. Trustees physically present for the meeting that lasted about six hours (after an earlier workshop in the afternoon) included Lira, Davila, Sung, Sue Deigaard and Elizabeth Santos.

Earlier in the public meeting, Adams echoing Lathan's earlier comments, warned that increasing the pay rate for lowest level employees would result in some of them losing their jobs.  At 7:51, the board went into executive closed session following this to seek legal guidance and when they came out, Santos offered the amendment that would make sure no staff members lost their jobs as a result of raise in pay.

The board also approved an amendment from Sung that set aside $175,00 to undertake a compensation study of all pay groups to ensure competitive pay for HISD employees. Adams abstained from that vote and Deigaard voted against it with the other five trustees present voting for it.

Go to and click on board meeting videos to see the meeting. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing