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Please place the blame where it belongs

Stories like this concern me.

Public opinion of the Houston Independent School District plummeted this year amid severe state budget cuts, while support of the superintendent also dropped, according to a new survey.

Among parents surveyed this spring, 54 percent said HISD was headed in the right direction, down from 79 percent two years ago.

Survey results indicate that the steep decline in confidence in the state’s largest district this year is partly due to budget cuts, which were being discussed around the time of the poll.

About six in 10 parents this year said they were satisfied with the performance of Superintendent Terry Grier, who has rolled out numerous changes since taking the helm two years ago. Grier’s predecessor, Abelardo Saavedra, generated support from about seven in 10 parents.

“What I have been hearing from parents for the past year is mostly what the poll showed — that the state budget cuts are the wrong direction for our public schools,” said HISD Trustee Harvin Moore. “But I’m also seeing a lot of frustration from parents about some of the initiatives the district has taken.”

Moore said parents were most upset by proposed changes to the specialty magnet school program, including plans to end some popular offerings and to eliminate busing to some campuses.

We can argue all we want about whether HISD took the best courses of action to deal with the legislative budget cuts, but let’s be very clear about this: The reason the board implemented cuts was because they were forced to do so by the Legislature. If you’re unhappy about that, it’s the Legislature – and the Senate, and the Governor, and the Lieutenant Governor – where you need to aim your ire. Specifically, it was the Republicans who pushed for the cuts, blocked any attempt to find alternate sources of funding to mitigate the cuts, and voted for the cuts, whom you need to hold responsible. To do anything else is to not understand the situation, and thus leave yourself vulnerable to a repeat of it in two years’ time. The only way to get a different outcome next time is to hold responsible for their actions those who caused this problem.

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2 Comments

  1. Ed Fuller says:

    This is an excellent post and a good reminder for people to place the blame where it belongs–on our state “leaders.”

    That said, Dr. Grier and his staff completely bungled the entire process. Contrast his actions with those of Dr. Chavez in Round Rock. Grier said him taking a pay cut wouldn’t help the situation and refused to do so. On the other hand, Chavez directly donated 20K of his salary and directed it towards teacher pay. That is the difference between a superintendent who cares more about himself and does not understand the power of symbolic politics and one who cares about the district and does understand symbolic politics.

  2. Anna Eastman says:

    Charles,

    Thanks for continuing to hold the Lege’s feet to the fire. My concern is that the intent of the Public Opinion Survey was not to get a pulse on how the public felt about the budget cuts. Rather, it is something we conduct biennially to gauge public opinion about the district in general. Of course the cuts took a huge amount of our attention over the past year, hence the financial crisis’ inclusion in the survey.

    Ed’s post may be a little harsh-‘bungled the entire process’-but I do think it’s critical for those of us in leadership positions to look at the results in their entirety, reflect on any and all areas for improvement and respond accordingly. If you read our Educational Philosophy as stated in policy AE Local, specifically under the headings Meaningful Engagement and Change in Action (found here: http://www.tasb.org/policy/pol/private/101912/pol.cfm?DisplayPage=AE(LOCAL).pdf&QueryText=AE%20LOCAL), intentional public engagement and active response is key to the board’s stated beliefs.

    Thanks, Anna

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