HISD Takes Beginning Steps Towards "Right-Sizing" Schools

Near the end of today's meeting about "right sizing" schools in Houston, Houston ISD board president Greg Meyers summed up just about everything we know about the proposed changes:

"I'm not sure how much clarity has been given at this point," he said.

That was after two hours of HISD trustees stressing things like "this is just the beginning of the process" and "nobody has said anything about closing schools" and "we're not honing in on specific schools."

In fact, it's hard for HISD to make any plans right now because the state hasn't told the district how much its budget will be cut. But it'll probably be a big chunk of cash.

"Having these conversations might be quite different when we find out what our state budget will be," said Superintendent Terry Grier.

But here's what we know right now:

To make "appropriate use of all our resources," the district is looking at inconsistent enrollments at elementary through high schools, focusing on the schools that receive "small school subsidies." While that money is a tiny part of the district's budget ($12 million or about one percent), it could be cut and, in extreme cases, schools could be closed.

The district released a list of all the schools (included at the bottom of this post) that receive the subsidies.

The problem starts with open enrollment causing some schools to suffer, and even some magnet schools can't draw enough students. Other small schools receive the subsidies, are listed as magnets, and get Title I money. Not an efficient system.

Enrollment caps, at least, won't be used to fix the problem. HISD trustee Harvin Moore said that people all the way in New York City are buying homes and moving into neighborhoods, only to find out that their kids can't go to school because enrollment is capped.

Hitting closer to home, Grier relayed a story about parents who tried to enroll their kids in certain schools and were turned away because there wasn't enough space. But a couple days later, those parents had friends whose kids were accepted at the same school.

When the meeting moved to the "Next steps?" portion, Moore suggest developing growth programs for small schools. Grier told him that the district already has growth programs for small schools. And that was about it.

The district plans to resume these discussions after the Christmas break.

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight