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HISD meeting to discuss budget

Mark your calendars for this Thursday, March 3, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 West 18th Street, at 6PM for an HISD board meeting that will include a discussion of the 2011-2012 budget as well as a “first reading” of the new magnet school policy. Here’s a map to the location where the meeting will be held. Here’s some more information about what will be on the agenda, sent to me via email:

The HISD administration presented the recommendations, which are intended to strengthen Houston’s portfolio of school choice options, to the Board last week. Proposals for the school board’s consideration address three general areas: student application, selection and admission process; magnet program funding; and measures of success and accountability. More details on the proposals can be found online at www.houstonisd.org.

Board trustees are also scheduled to discuss policies related to school closures, which may become necessary because of proposed drastic cuts to state education funding that would take effect in the 2011-2012 school year.

School closures are among many options being considered for offsetting what HISD officials expect will be a $170 million shortfall. Administrators have already identified about $50 million in potential budget cuts that, for the most part, do not directly impact classrooms. One of the proposals on the table is to end the practice of giving extra funding to some unique schools. This leaves about $120 million in additional spending cuts that would likely result in teacher layoffs and the elimination of popular programs.

The Board is not scheduled to take any votes on Thursday, and residents are encouraged to speak on any topic listed on the agenda. Those wishing to speak must submit the speaker registration form by noon Thursday. That form can be found online at www.houstonisd.org. Forms are also available in the Board Services office at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. Completed forms may be faxed to 713-556-6115. For additional information on registering to speak, call 713-556-6121.

Let’s hope the proceedings are slightly less grim than they were in Austin yesterday. Be there if you can. Read on for a message sent out via email by Save Our Schools Houston to all concerned parents and other individuals.

A Message from Concerned Travis Elementary Parents to:  Former Travis Parents, Friends of Travis, Parents of any Public School Student, Business Owners, and other Stakeholders

Please read this in its entirety: This Introductory Message is lengthy, but includes vital information that will impact your children!  Future communications will be brief, but this email is intended to inform those in our community who may not be aware of the Budget Crisis or who may not have absorbed the huge impact it will have on their children or who are seeking ways they can get connected and get involved.

This is about our kids…please take a few moments for them.

There are 3 Elements to this Message:
Information
What You Can Do
Important Dates

INFORMATION

This year the State of Texas is facing a budget shortfall of $15-$27 billion.  Legislators are in session now and in the coming months will be making tough decisions on how to balance the budget.   Last month, the Texas Senate and House of Representatives released preliminary budgets which proposed cuts of over $9 billion to public education over the next two years.  The state has not seen these kinds of cuts since World War II:  it is a crisis for schools in Texas.

For HISD, this means cuts of $202-$348 million, which is 15%-20% cut of their entire operating budget. Even with cuts in Central Administration, they cannot avoid making cuts at the campus level.  Current estimates range in cuts from $500-$800 per student.    This translates into the potential for school closures, school consolidations, increased class sizes, staff layoffs–including classroom teachers and specialists–eliminating full-day Pre-K, summer classes, tutoring, fine arts instruction, technology, field trips and sports.

Every school in HISD will be impacted by such devastating cuts.  HISD cannot absorb a multi-million-dollar deficit without having undesirable outcomes in the classroom.  The schools children attend will look very different in the Fall 2011 school year if we do not act.  Education makes up 45% of the state budget, so there will be cuts.  How deep they will go remains to be decided.   HISD has handouts in 3 languages, a short video on the budget crisis and one hour TV Q&A show all online the HISD website.  Visit www.houstonisd.org/budget to view these and other informative documents.

Travis Elementary has 725 students (one example that could be compared to any school in HISD or other district). With cuts ranging from $500-$800 per student (or put another way, $20,000 to $28,000 per classroom), this would result in Travis losing $362,500-$580,000.  As with most school districts, the majority of the district budget and campus budget is spent on personnel.  With the average teacher salary being $52,800, this would mean a school the size of Travis could lose anywhere from 7 to 11 teachers and/ or staff. Office and building staff, teachers’ aides and teachers will all be considered when deciding layoffs.

Art, music, and computer technology may not be offered as enrichment programs next year.  The librarian, counselor and nurse may also be gone. Even if you eliminated all these positions, depending on the size of the cut, schools might still need to eliminate grade level teachers.   This means larger classroom sizes.  Items such as Readers Theatre, science lab, and field trips may disappear.

At Travis, the PTA currently funds Writers in the School (WITS) and a portion of the Creative Movement Teacher’s salary.  As the PTA considers its budget for 2011-2012, it may decide that proceeds generated from its fundraisers will go towards helping pay for teachers and programs that may be deemed more essential.

We are entering unchartered territory:  never before have school districts in Texas experienced cuts of this magnitude–even in prior state-wide economic downturns.

Today, Feb 28th, there are 92 days left of the legislative session.  It ends May 30th.  Even if legislators opt to continue through the summer with a special session, school districts are required to adopt their budgets by June 30th.  School districts and administrators are working now on their budgets. The State is working now on its budget.

Does this mean there is no time left? No, it means you must make it a priority to do something about it today.  We have to take time from some of our personal obligations and help with this.  If we wait too long, we will not be able to help minimize the size of the cuts.  Note:  these cuts will be permanent–requiring legislative action to reverse them.

The State Legislators need to hear from their constituents about this issue.  Having quality public schools is essential to our children, neighborhoods, businesses, city and state.  94% of children in Texas attend public schools.  At a time when Texas school districts are growing at an average of 84,000 students per year, and working hard to raise academic standards, doing more with not only less, but significantly less, is not an option.

The children of Texas need to know they are valued and a quality education is a worthy investment in their future. Our children, who cannot vote, need their parents and concerned citizens to take action and represent them!

WHAT YOU CAN DO

·        Recognize the urgency of this issue & make it a priority to do something about it today. Once the final budget is adopted we cannot influence what will happen.  It is critical you do something now.

Attend a Meeting at Travis Elementary on Tuesday, March 1st at 6:00 pm or Friday, March 4th at 2:00 pm to learn more!  Please RSVP here if you plan to attend one of these meetings:  info@saveourschoolshouston.org

·        Contact Texas Legislators in person or with letters, by phone, fax or email. Contact your state House Representative and Senator.  To find out who represents you, go to: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us, and type in your address.  Contact the State Senate and House Committees that will be making decisions on this. In person, personal letters mailed or faxed, or emails:  any contact is better than NONE!  If possible, please take a short time to write letters and mail them.  Legislators need to see a growing stack of mail come in- they are more effective!  (see sample letter attached.)

·        Reach out to others. So many people are not aware of these cuts or have not absorbed the huge, negative impact our children will experience.  There is an urgent need for you to reach out to everyone you know in the greater Houston area and other areas in Texas:  school parents, neighbors, friends, family, personal clubs, co-workers, civic associations.

·        Host letter writing parties or gatherings in your home and community buildings. Get your school parents informed and engaged. Help get others to do the same, spread the word, provide information and get people contacting legislators in their area.  Help collect names, addresses and emails of people wanting to learn more.  Collect signatures on a petition.  (info@saveourschoolshouston.org will be sending updates in the coming days with sample letters, petititions, etc. to help you!)

·     Visit www.TexasEdFunding for a petition and contact sign up list or email info@saveourschoolshouston.org and learn what to do with your collected data.

·     Plan your own event. Help engage community members and invite them to learn more.  Host letter writing parties to get those written contacts made.  Pick a date and go to the state capitol.  The best times are between Mon-Thurs.  Get there in the early morning.  You do not need to make an appointment, unless you personally know a representative.  Bring your letters with you.  If you have children, you can have them write about what they love about school.  If you collected names on a petition, bring them with you to show numbers.

·     Don’t reinvent the wheel. Time is of the essence.  Go to www.TexasEdFunding.com, a Houston based source  for the list of legislators to contact, draft sample letters, informational handouts, petitions and to find out more information about activities, events and the latest news articles.

·        Stay Informed. Visit www.houstonisde.org/budget regularly for updates.

·        Watch the “State of Budget” broadcast by HISD that was held on February 21 by clicking here:

http://cms7.houstonisd.org/HISDConnectDS/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=3f15f1303b8ca210VgnVCM10000028147fa6RCRD&vgnextchannel=65db2f796138c010VgnVCM10000052147fa6RCRD

This one-hour program includes a Q&A session with HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, top HISD administrators, school principals and parents.  You can also find handouts and another video regarding the impact to HISD on their website. Find links to facts and relevant news articles on www.TexasEdFunding.com and sign up to get updates on events and activities. Read online news articles about the Texas budget shortfall and public education.

IMPORTANT DATES

·        Travis Elementary will host two Meetings to learn how the proposed budget shortfall will impact Travis:  March 1st — 6:00 pm and March 4th — 2:00 pm
·        The Texas PTA invites you to:  ”Fund Texas’ Future Day” Schools Day” – Wed., Mar 2:
“It’s the biggest crisis in Texas history.  Nearly five million Texas students need our help.  Texas PTA is proclaiming Wednesday, March 2, as “Fund Texas’ Future Day.”  It’s imperative we make sure our “house is in order” – the Texas House of Representatives in Austin, that is.  Please light up cyberspace by emailing your state representative on Wednesday, March 2.”  To find out who represents you, go to: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us, and type in your address.

·        Grassroots Training on Engaging  Your School & Community,  Wed., Mar 2, 7:00pm
St. Philip Presbyterian Church located at 4807 San Felipe, Houston 77056.   713.622.4807

Learn how to reach out to parents at your school and your neighborhood in this issue. Don’t reinvent the wheel- information will help you learn what other schools are already using. All are welcome.  Organized by Parents for Public Schools and Texans for Public Education Funding.  (Parking in the back of the building.)

·        Community Engagement and Informational Session, Sun., Mar 6, 9:30 am.
St. Philip Presbyterian Church in room 202 (the “Families in Faith room”)
An HISD parent and advocate will lead a discussion of the proposed cuts and how they will impact the entire future of Texas and what citizens can do in response.  Petitions for signing, information on which elected officials to contact, and guidance in letter-writing will be available.   All are welcome.

·        Attend the “Save Texas Schools Rally” in Austin, TX, Mar. 12
Go here for more info:  www.savetxschools.org
Our message will only be heard if we have strength in numbers.  Talk to your family, friends, students, co-workers, teachers, neighbors, business leaders, members of your faith community and more. Ask them to join you to show our leaders what matters to Texas. This is a family friendly, non-partisan event.    March to the Capitol: 1
1:00 a.m. starting from 12th & Trinity (1 block east of the Capitol grounds)
Capitol Rally:
Noon — 2:00 p.m. at the Texas State Capitol on the South Steps, Congress Ave. & 11th St.  (Many families are planning their Spring Break vacation around the Austin area; it’s not too late to book cabins, cottages, campgrounds!)

Texans Together is collaborating with Save Texas Schools and will provide a free chartered bus ride from Houston to Austin for this rally on March 12th.  If you are interested in taking advantage of this please sign up at ttef.convio.net/rallybus.  To stay updated, visit www.texanstogether.org. Please help spread the word. Go to www.savetxschools.org to print out and distribute fliers in your community.

·        Attend Legislative Day in Austin, TX, March 14th. Join fellow Houstonians as we go to Austin to speak directly to our legislators.   Open to parents, educators and community members.

We want to fill the Capitol with Houstonians.  You don’t need to have all the answers or   lobbying experience.  Informational training will be provided on the bus. Free bus transportation and lunch provided.*

*RSVP by Tuesday, March 1st by emailing TexasEdFunding@gmail.com. Please include your name, home address, and phone number. Please, note that childcare will not be provided and students are not permitted to ride the bus due to liability issues. If you miss the RSVP deadline, you can still attend and make your own travel arrangements.  You can meet us there or follow the buses.  Buses will leave at 7:00 from the SIO parking lot located across from HISD’s Hattie Mae White building.  Please spread the word. Organized by HISD Parent Visionaries and Houston Federation of Teachers.

Lastly, thank you for caring about public education in Houston.  If you need any other information or would like grassroots training to get an effort going in your school or community, please contact info@saveourschoolshouston.orgIf you are already doing something on your own or at another campus, please let us know so that we can collaborate together.   We are collecting names and emails to send updates on events and news regarding this issue.  Please email info@saveourschoolshouston.org.

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One Comment

  1. Nancy Lomax says:

    Please join us for the trip to Austin for the Save Texas Schools Rally on March 12.

    Parents for Public Schools of Houston is providing 2 buses leaving from the Hattie May White HISD Administration Bldg. at 4400 West 18th St. (across the street from NW Mall) at 7 AM on Saturday, March 12 to attend the huge Save Texas Schools Rally and March in Austin. This is a state wide event which will bring thousands of Texans together to protest the enormous budget cuts to public education proposed by the Governor and the majority party in the Legislature. The bus will return to Houston by 5:30 PM. The March begins at 11 AM at 12th and Trinity in downtown Austin and proceeds to the south steps of the capitol. The Rally is scheduled on the south steps from noon until 2 PM.

    To ride these buses you must RSVP to Nancy Lomax by email at nrlomax@comcast.net, or call 713-668-7075. We are asking for donations to help cover the cost of the buses but they are not required. This is a family friendly event. Children over the age of 4 may accompany their parent on the bus. Please bring a pillow, a sack lunch, drinks, and snacks because there will be no opportunity to buy food in Austin. (These items may be left on the bus during the Rally.) Please come and bring a friend. And don’t forget your umbrella! It’s raining on the future of Texas.

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