As we know, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier has proposed ending HISD’s relationship with Community Education Partners (CEP), which provides alternate schools for kids with discipline problems. Following that, the Chron editorialized in favor of Grier’s stance.
Grier contends that CEP costs too much — $22 million annually and $180 million since 1997. During that period a number of other school districts across the nation severed ties with CEP, some on grounds that it was not effective in either educating or reforming students with disciplinary problems. In Atlanta, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the city’s school district and CEP, charging that its alternative schools were functioning as curriculum-deficient warehouses for minority students. The Atlanta district subsequently ended its contract with CEP and settled the ACLU suit.
In the case of HISD, critics have long complained that middle and high school principals routinely send students with relatively minor behavioral issues to the CEP campuses.
The superintendent is proposing that a smaller alternative school for serious student offenders, including those bringing drugs or guns on campus, be established at a cost of $14 million a year. Interested groups, including CEP, could bid for a contract to run the new school.
On Wednesday, HFT President Gayle Fallon wrote a letter to the editor disputing several of the Chron’s assertions.
The Chronicle asserted that HISD teachers send students to CEP for minor infractions. That is not true. According to HISD records, it takes an average of six to seven serious disciplinary infractions before a student is sent to CEP for persistent misconduct. The state law defines “persistent misconduct” as a student who is so disruptive that a teacher cannot teach other students effectively with this child in class. Less than 2 percent of the Level 3 infractions reported to the district end up at CEP. These are the serious cases.
Grier states he can do the disciplinary program cheaper, but let’s look at his record. The cost of his internal programs in Guilford County, N.C. ($41,281/pupil) and in San Diego ($27,105/pupil) were both higher than our current cost. His programs also gave the appearance of discriminatory practices. In Guilford his alternative schools had 89 percent African-American students in a district that was 45.5 percent African-American.
What we have here is not a difference of opinion but a difference of fact. Grier and the Chron say that kids can be sent to CEP for minor infractions; Fallon says that’s not true. Grier and the Chron say that CEP is too expensive; Fallon says that Grier’s proposed alternative cost more in the places where he’s tried it before than what CEP does now. How is any interested observer, let alone an HISD Board member, supposed to decide on a preferred outcome if we can’t be sure who’s got their facts straight and who doesn’t? It cannot be the case that both Grier and Fallon are correct, though they both could be partially right. It sure would be nice if we could get a definitive, objective evaluation of what everyone is saying. Until then, I don’t know about you, but I’m confused.