HISD Passes its $2.1 Billion Budget, But in a Much Closer Than Expected Manner

Janette Garza Lindner had a lot of questions but in the end she fell in line with what the administration wanted.
Janette Garza Lindner had a lot of questions but in the end she fell in line with what the administration wanted. Screenshot

The $2.1 billion budget Superintendent Mike Miles proposed for the 2024-25 school year passed Thursday night, in a 5-4 squeaker that was both rare and revealing that apparently not everyone was on board with a fast paced, expensive expansion of the New Education System.

At least not at a time when the district has taken drastic measures to counter a $528 million gap in funding due largely to the disappearance of federal COVID support funds and a continued decline in student enrollment in the district.. To counter this, the ranks of wraparound specialists were decimated and extensive Central Office cuts made. In the next year, non-NES schools will face campus budget cuts of up to 12 percent.

Board members Michelle Cruz Arnold, Casandra Auzenne Bandy, Adam Rivon and Rolando Martinez voted against Miles' budget. Those in favor were Board President Audrey Momanaee, Ric Campo, Angela Lemond Flowers, Paula Mendoza and Janette Garza Lindner. Despite asking the most questions in the board discussion before the vote, trying to pin down Miles on what assessment measures he is using to make sure the NES program actually delivers the results it is claiming, Garza Lindner voted to approve his plan.

As usual, no one on the appointed board explained why they voted the way they did, leaving audience members to speculate about whether those trustees who voted "no" did so was because they disagreed with the massive allocation of funds to NES schools, a fear that non-NES schools were being left behind, or just the anxiety that NES style of instruction with its rigid time tables and daily testing would eventually move to highly rated schools those board members hold dear.

Not one of the more than 130 speakers who addressed the board expressed support for Miles' budget and many begged the board to vote against it. They expressed continued anger at the firings of teachers and principals who the administration determined weren't a good fit in the new spot check approach in HISD.

Several speakers asked the Board of Managers to delay a vote on the budget which the district had time to do since it has another meeting scheduled for June 27 which is before the state-imposed deadline of June 30.

"NES expansion takes funding away from non-NES schools. Are you okay with that? Why are our most vulnerable students set to receive a cut to their program after showing improvement? Ask for another budget. Ask for another budget meeting, " HISD parent Naomi Doyle Madrid told the board.

The meeting itself was interrupted by frequent board recesses due to audience members loudly expressing their opinions from the floor. One HISD teacher got thrown out on Momanaee's orders after her second warning. She was escorted from the room by two HISD police officers.

North Division Superintendent Orlando Riddick distinguished himself (or not) by getting into a back and forth shouting match from the staff section of the room to audience members who disagreed with him about how beneficial the NES approach has been. “Scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard” he kept yelling as he gestured to the front of the room, presumably referring to the overall higher percentage of students who passed the spring STAAR exams.

One of the HISD lawyers eventually persuaded him to shut up and he went to there the board was waiting in recess till everything cooled down. The audience consensus was that Riddick had shown no respect for the public's concerns about the HISD budget and its programs, concerns they feel they has every right to voice.
click to enlarge
Two strikes and you're out.
Photo by Margaret Downing
There will be no change in the tax rate for the next year; it will remain at a total of $0.8683 per $100 assessed valuation. The district is using $131,119,382 of the fund balance to fund its general operating budget. This will leave the district with an estimated  general fund balance of $801,569,427. 
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