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HISD to contemplate uniform start times again

They’re back.

This is already my life

Bleary-eyed teenagers in Houston ISD could sleep later, but not everyone is cheering a budget-cutting proposal that would change school hours and bus schedules next year.

The school board last year rejected a plan to tinker with the times after parents complained. But with the Houston Independent School District facing another multimillion-dollar deficit, Superintendent Terry Grier’s administration said Thursday it was trying again with a revised plan that addresses some concerns while fueling others.

High schools would start at 8:45 a.m. – an hour later than what was proposed last year – and end at 4:15 p.m.

[…]

The proposal last year failed by one vote, with trustees influenced by parents and skeptical of the cost savings. Grier plans to make a formal recommendation to the board in May after holding several community meetings.

Under the new plan, middle schools would run from 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The proposal last year started them an hour later.

Elementary schools would run from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., or 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Several other Houston area districts already have standardized school hours.

An upside of the proposal, [HISD Chief Operating Officer Leo] Bobadilla said, is that students would be in school for seven hours and 30 minutes a day – an increase on average of 19 minutes daily, or seven days per year.

See here, here, and here for some background. This proposal is somewhat better from my perspective, in that elementary and middle schools would no longer have start times more than an hour apart, but it’s still not desirable. Getting out the door for an 8 AM start is enough of a challenge. Adjusting to a 7:30 start would mean getting up a half hour earlier. I get up early enough already, thanks. If we got an 8:30 start time instead, that would be even worse, especially when Olivia goes to middle school. Our work day won’t start any later, so the kids would spend that much more time at school waiting to get into their classes. I realize HISD has to do something about the continued underfunding of public education in Texas, since Rick Perry and the Republicans won’t, but this is still not an idea I support.

All things considered, I’d prefer this:

HISD officials estimate a shortfall of $34.7 million next school year after the Legislature reduced education funding statewide.

To balance the budget, Grier’s staff offered the board several options Thursday: raising the tax rate, dipping into savings, and cutting programs and costs such as busing.

“I’m considering everything this year because we’re in a bind,” said board president Mike Lunceford, who opposed the schedule change last year.

Raising the tax rate by 1.5 cents, to $1.17 per $100 of assessed value, would net the district an extra $20 million next year, according to the chief financial officer, Melinda Garrett. The owner of an average-priced home (about $200,000) would pay an extra $21 a year.

You can only cut so much. HISD’s rate is low enough that it can do this without a public vote. I’d go all the way to a 2 cent hike, which would generate nearly $27 million, thus making the remaining shortfall a lot more manageable. HISD can always reduce the rate later, after Texas either regains its decency or is forced to do so by the courts. Until then, I say enough is enough with the cuts. Hair Balls has more.

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7 Comments

  1. Jay Aiyer says:

    I understand that change can be disruptive, but there are real positives to this plan. At the high school level, the later start time is a vast improvement. Studies by the American Pediatric Association have long advocated for the need for teenagers to start school later based on development and sleep arguments. Those studies point to student performance at the high school level increasing with later start times. The other component is the longer instructional day equates to nearly 7 days of school per year. Again, time on task is critically important and this plan does help with that. Finally this initiative has less to do with the projected savings and more to do with the need for a uniform start and end time. We simply can’t have a system with so many start and and end times. Because HISD is a district of choice, a vast number of students do not attend their neighborhood school. As a consequence, buses play a huge role at al three levels of school–not just middle or high school. Having a coordinated system reduces costs associated with transportation.

  2. […] we know, HISD is contemplating uniform start times as a way to save a few bucks for the next fiscal year. They do have some other ideas going, as well […]

  3. Ross says:

    I like the 8am start time, because I can take my kid to school then get to work. I don’t really want to get up 30 or 45 minutes earlier, and the 8.30 time doesn’t work at all. This seems to be a lot like the CoH lawn trash mandate that saved the City a million or so dollars and cost taxpayers 5 million more in higher bag expense.

  4. mary t. says:

    My daughter’s middle school now starts at 8:15. Her bus route begins pick up in this area at 6:41. It gets to her scheduled corner at 7:04, but by getting her to the next stop (7:10) not only does she gain a few minutes, but she can be with other classmates. One of the routes that goes to her MS starts at 6:15. It’s all well and good that high schoolers may get to sleep longer in the morning (my son would love to be able to get up at 8:00), but middle schoolers need sleep, too, and my daughter is slow-to-wake, so she “wakes” up at 6:00 now.

    HISD does allow choice, and my daughter knew she would have to get up much earlier to attend the MS of her choice. More parents will choose to drive their students to school rather than suffer ridiculously early wake-up times to get buses, and it is going to add gridlock to morning and afternoon commutes for everyone and neighbors of the schools won’t be happy, either.

  5. […] we know, HISD is contemplating uniform start times for its campuses for next year. They have said they want public feedback on their proposals. […]

  6. […] for the second year of the biennium, so there’s more of this to come. This is why HISD is grappling with its budget again, and is considering a property tax rate hike as one option to close another multi-million […]

  7. […] for the second year of the biennium, so there’s more of this to come. This is why HISD is grappling with its budget again, and is considering a property tax rate hike as one option to close another multi-million […]

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