Right up to the end of the lengthy budget process this spring, Houston ISD trustees were assured by Superintendent Terry Grier and his administrators that if the district's calculations were off, if HISD got more money from the state than expected, then of course, any excess would be restored to the schools to be used by principals to, say, rehire teachers and continue arts programs.
At today's agenda review meeting this afternoon, Grier is recommending -- in a proposal to be voted on this week by trustees -- that the entire $18.4 million (of money the district hadn't expected to get but did) be squirreled away in the general fund against an anticipated $44 million shortfall in the 2012-13 school year.
To balance this, Grier proposes to take an equal $18.4 million from a $33 million federal grant, to return $85 of the $275 per pupil unit allocation cut to each school, but stipulates that not one penny be spent on teachers.
Instead it would be used for "three identified initiatives: technology, intervention strategies and instructional materials. No full-time positions will be authorized since the funding is a one-time allocation."
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Not only does this mean no restored teaching positions, it also kind of gnaws away at the decentralization idea -- that principals are the best people to decide what their individual campuses need (and if they screw up, fire them). The proposal does say that if a principal has an alternate plan, he or she can submit it to the central office.
It was only last June when Grier argued that the district should enter into a transportation contract with competitor-for-children KIPP, and said the bus service deal would be worth the equivalent of "20 teaching positions."
And while it could well be argued that Grier is wisely husbanding the district's resources against increasingly difficult times, there are many teachers and parents who will have a hard time seeing item G-6 on this week's agenda as anything other than a great betrayal -- especially after the spring's massive layoffs.
And for teachers who were fired this year -- not for cause but for budget -- even if they'd only be assured of another year, we're guessing they'd take it. Another year to figure something else out, another year to pay a mortgage.