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June 19th, 2014:

Dave Wilson reminds us again why elections matter

Because now when he does crap like this, it’s as an elected official and not just a yahoo crank of long standing.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson, an anti-gay activist who won a contested race for a seat on the Houston Community College board last November, wants HCC to cancel its plans to sponsor a float in this month’s gay pride parade.

“Regardless of what has happened in the past, it is my position that HCC should not lend its name or taxpayers’ money to this parade,” Wilson said in an email to HCC Chairwoman Neeta Sane and the rest of the board. “My religious beliefs consider homosexual behavior to be a sin.”

[…]

The annual Houston Pride Parade, which last year drew 400,000 people, is scheduled for June 28. Wilson said he wants the board to vote on whether HCC’s participation is appropriate.

“If the KKK had a parade, I would hope the college wouldn’t lend its name to that,” Wilson said in an interview. “I don’t want to take any part in it, but I’m just one of nine. I want the opportunity to vote on it. I’m not going to unilaterally force my will onto somebody.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, no vote was scheduled for Thursday’s meeting. The chancellor has the necessary authority and has decided HCC will participate, spokeswoman Fritz Guthrie said.

The system has sponsored a float in the parade for years. It participates in a variety of community events, from Juneteenth celebrations to the annual Cesar Chavez parade, Sane said.

“It’s reaching out to all cross sections of our community,” Sane said. “I’m pretty comfortable about HCC being out there.”

As are all decent human beings. I trust the rest of the board will follow the lead of Chancellor Cesar Maldonado and Chairwoman Sane, but again, the reason we’re even talking about this is because Wilson managed to deceive enough voters to sneak in under the radar. Under any other circumstances, no one would be paying attention to the ravings of a nutcase. I sure hope Vince Ryan can prove his case when it goes to court next month. A copy of Maldonado’s email to Wilson, which was embedded as an image in Wilson’s email for some reason, and Wilson’s reply to Sane, on which he bcc’ed me, is beneath the fold.

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HISD prepares its budget

Teacher pay raises and magnet school funding changes are the main points of interest.

Terry Grier

Terry Grier

Thanks to rising property values, all Houston ISD employees would receive raises and schools would get more money for supplies, field trips or tutors next year under a budget proposal drawing complaints for its long-term cuts to some popular magnet programs.

For property owners, next year also is expected to bring the first round of a tax rate increase tied to the construction bond package passed by voters in 2012, according to HISD’s financial chief, Ken Huewitt.

The school board is set to vote Thursday on the district’s $1.7 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year. Trustees will not adopt the tax rate until October, but Huewitt projects it will rise by 1 or 2 cents. The amount depends on the district’s final property values, which aren’t certified until August.

Huewitt said he likely could keep the rate hike to a penny if the board doesn’t add more money to schools’ budgets. However, some trustees have said schools need additional funds particularly after state budget cuts in 2011 led to job losses.

Any tax rate increase would come on top of the 3-cent hike the board approved last year to help fund low-performing schools and raises.

The current tax rate is $1.1867 per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a $200,000 home pays $1,720 in taxes, with the district’s tax breaks.

“I think it’s a very good budget,” Huewitt said. “All along we’ve been talking about what our priorities are. If we really believe an effective teacher in every classroom is important, we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is.”

Under Superintendent Terry Grier’s budget proposal, teacher salaries would increase by at least $1,100 with some rising by double that amount, Huewitt said. Other staff would get a 3 percent raise.

[…]

Generating the most controversy is Grier’s plan to standardize funding for magnet programs and other specialty schools, which have themes like fine arts or serve gifted students. Some schools would gain tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over three years. Others would lose the same amount.

Softening cuts to the specialty schools, Grier has proposed upping the budgets for all campuses by $55 per student.

Some school board members have said they want to double that extra money for all schools and hope to amend the budget proposal Thursday.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get more money to our schools – which would be great because they desperately need support staff and librarians and counselors,” said school board president Juliet Stipeche.

See here and here for the background, and these two K12 Zone posts for more on the revised magnet funding formulae, which remain subject to further change. It’s nice that there’s more money being put into the budget for magnet school programs, but I still don’t understand, and I suspect a lot of other people don’t understand, what the bottom line is. It would be very helpful if HISD could explain, in sufficiently small words, what the district’s vision for its magnet school program is and what the factors are that affect how a given school is funded for it. Maybe it will be a little clearer after the budget is adopted, but the overall lack of communication on this has made the process a lot harder than it needs to be.

Firefighters union rejects contract deal

Oops.

The contract rejected Tuesday by 93 percent of the roughly 2,900 firefighters voting would have taken a similar approach, granting a pay raise in exchange for concessions on members’ ability to take leave. With the no vote, as of July 1 members of Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 enter an “evergreen” period under their prior contract that would run through 2016 unless a new agreement is approved.

The evergreen situation would provide no raises, but imposes few effective caps on how many firefighters can take time off, raising questions about whether the department’s proposed $507 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes enough money to cover overtime costs, and whether HFD will repeat the fiscal woes of recent months.

“Make no mistake about it, this is a resounding statement that the firefighters are together on this. That the concessions are too high, that giving back was enough,” said fire union president Bryan Sky-Eagle, whose team negotiated the deal. “I’m very optimistic we’ll go back to the table and find out what went wrong and try to fix it.”

Parker said the city is willing to return to the bargaining table. She said it is far from clear, however, that the union will be able to win more favorable terms from a city council that opposed hiking HFD’s overtime budget earlier this year and is poised to vote Wednesday on several items that would cut her proposed $2.4 billion general fund budget.

“If they want to come back with the idea of significant pay raises in the next year, I’m just going to have to say it will be seriously impacted by what Council does, and my sense of the mood of Council is they’re not wanting to put a whole lot more money in the budget,” the mayor said.

See here for the background. Sky-Eagle negotiated the deal with the city, so I can only wonder where the disconnect was. The issues with overtime are real and not going anywhere on their own, so one way or another this is going to have to be dealt with. I presume they’ll figure it out eventually. The Chron editorial board has more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of June 16

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks it’s the Republican Party of Texas’ platform writers that need some therapy as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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