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.