UPDATE: News flash from Houston ISD: Summer School will go on, just maybe not in the way it previously operated. And the $19 million shortfall may not be quite that high. See end of post.
Houston ISD principals are going to have to put their math skills to the ultimate test in the next year, as they learn to cope with a $19 million shortfall in federal funds, according to a report out today from the Examiner group of newspapers (Bellaire Examiner, River Oaks Examiner).
The story by reporter Steve Mark says that even HISD trustees were left out of the loop about the shortfall and approved next year's budget in late June without taking the change in federal funding into consideration.
Superintendent Terry Grier reportedly defended the administration's decision not to specifically mention the $19 million shortfall, saying that they had warned there would be more federal dollars lost in the upcoming year.
It'll be up to each principal to redo the school budget to make up for the missing funds or to drop programs. (And to think some educators were worrying that under Grier the proudly promoted system of "site-based management" was going to fall by the wayside.)
The reduction is in federal Title I funding which goes to schools with students who at the low end of the economic scale. The funds are used for such things as summer school, early childhood classes and the credit-recovery program designed to help kids graduate.
We'll add to this account if we learn anything more.
Update: Melinda Garrett, chief financial officer for HISD, got back to us a few minutes ago to take issue with some of the points made in the Examiner account. For one thing, although there is a projected $19 million shortfall now, it may not end up that way, she says. If there is any Title I money left over from last year that the district can use this year, the gap will be lowered, she says. Also, the Texas Education Agency usually gives out additional allotment adjustments during the year. Although: "The big one we didn't get that started part of this problem; we didn't get $10 million in March that we had gotten for years. And we had to scramble to figure out how to fund summer school for this year," Garrett says.
The other variable is that even before the $19 million shortfall was determined, HISD administrators had already been working to devise a new, cheaper way of doing summer school, Garrett says. "We were really hoping we would have some extra money out of that revamping to do some other things but that's not the case now." The summer school proposal will come before trustees at their September 3 meeting.
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Garrett says principals may have to turn to other money in their budgets to make up for the Title I shortfall but any extra money that becomes available will be channeled their way for summer school.
As for preschool, Garrett insists it remains untouched by the gap and will operate as it has in the past. And the credit recovery program, funded through federal stimulus dollars, is in fine shape for 2010-11 but will have to find a new funding source in 2011-12 if it is to continue, she says. She also says trustees have known for months about the summer school funding problems.
We also talked with a friend of Hair Balls who is not completely satisfied with Garrett's explanations. According to this concerned parent, there will be no more central funding of pre-K, and a lot of money is being drawn off by the new Apollo 20 program designed to help the 20 lowest performing schools in HISD.
Hair Balls will continue to study this story and report back, line item by line item.