It is his signature program.
Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier on Thursday lobbied the school board for at least $17 million to expand his Apollo school reform effort, noting new research showing its benefits.
Grier is facing resistance from some trustees – though likely not enough to defeat his plan – as they consider a possible tax increase to balance the Houston Independent School District’s $1.5 billion total budget for next year.
“I’m going to say this 100,000 times if I need to,” he told the board. “It simply takes more money to educate children who are really far behind, to bring them back up to grade level.”
Grier is seeking the extra money to maintain key parts of the Apollo program: hiring tutors to work with small groups of students and extending the school day by an hour. He proposes funding the effort at 16 middle and high schools, up from the nine that started the program in 2010.
The program also would continue in 11 elementary schools that began a scaled-down version in 2011.
Grier’s administration estimates needing an extra $52 million to $73 million to balance the district’s budget next year, including adding funding for the Apollo program. The numbers could change depending on the state’s final budget.
In February, Grier’s administration floated the idea of raising property taxes, and documents given to trustees Thursday included scenarios of increasing the rate from 3 to 6 cents.
That increase would come on top of the 1-cent tax hike planned for 2014 to help fund the recent bond issue for school construction. Combined, they raise the tax bills of the owner of a $200,000 home by as much as $100, assuming no change in property value.
Unclear what the Board will do with Grier’s request; the story had one favorable comment from Harvin Moore and one skeptical comment from Manuel Rodriguez. The main question is going to be the money. The House just approved some more money in the supplemental budget for public education, which might help HISD for the upcoming year, but committing more resources to Apollo is an ongoing expense. If it’s working, it’s a pretty good investment. I haven’t been paying close enough attention to have a strong opinion on this, so I look forward to seeing what the Board has to say about it.