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Demagnetized

Some unhappy changes are about to occur at Houston schools.

Terry Grier

Terry Grier

HISD officials unveiled a plan Thursday to cut funding and end bus rides next year for transfer students at 20 struggling magnet schools, tackling a politically tough topic that has confounded the district for years.

The campuses will be the first to feel the consequences of the school board’s policy, passed in May, to end the specialty programs that draw few students from outside the neighborhood or post low test scores. Until now the board has put off eliminating any of its 115 magnet programs – roughly 40 percent of its schools – amid protests from parents.

The campuses on the hit list will lose a combined $2.3 million in extra funding next year.

In addition, the hundreds of students who transfer to the schools and now get district transportation will have to arrange other rides.

Superintendent Terry Grier described the decision bluntly.

“If you don’t meet standard, you should not be a magnet school,” he said.

The HISD Board of Trustees approved the change to the magnet school policy back in May, and while Board President Anna Eastman disputed Grier’s assertion that no Board vote was needed to affirm these cuts, there was no opposition from any Board member or education-related group noted in the story. With HISD still struggling with the deep budget cuts in public education from 2011 and the property tax rate about to go up to fund pay raises and the Apollo program, I’m sure this savings will offer some relief.

Here’s the list of schools affected by this:

* The 20 campuses that will lose their extra magnet funding and busing next year are Burbank, Elrod, Law, Pleasantville, Wesley and West University elementary schools; Attucks, Deady, Dowling, Henry, Holland, Jackson and Key middle schools; and Jones, Lee, Madison, Sharpstown, Westbury, Wheatley and Worthing High schools.

* Those on probation are Crespo, Garden Villas, Helms, MacGregor, Pugh, Ross and Wainwright elementaries; Hogg and Long middle schools; and Kashmere, Scarborough, Sterling and Washington high schools.

Helms and Hogg are in my neighborhood. Helms has a dual-language program that some friends of mine have their kids in. Hogg has been aggressively pursuing upgrades to its IB and STEM programs in part to make the school more attractive to Heights-area parents. I hope they can close whatever gaps they face. The school on these lists that surprised me was West U Elementary. According to Harvin Moore, who responded to an email query I sent, West U Elementary has only about 40 magnet kids, in a school of 1100 students. I guess they draw plenty from their neighborhood. Which is ideally what it should be – every neighborhood should have a school that resident want their kids to attend. We’ll see how this plays out. Hair Balls, which takes a negative view of this action by HISD, has more.

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2 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    Here’s a note from Dr. Schnitta(Hogg principal) on the Learn Local Facebook page:

    Message from Hogg’s principal, Dr. Mina Schnitta: As you may know, Hogg Middle School’s magnet program is on probation for not meeting academic standards. This year with the new STAAR test (the most rigorous state assessment in history), the state of Texas narrowed its ratings to just two options: “Met Standard” and “Improvement Required.” (Under TAKS there were 4 ratings: Exemplary, Recognized, Academically Acceptable and Unacceptable.) This year Hogg M.S. missed the “Met Standard” rating by just ONE point in one the four performance indexes. HISD Board Policy states that schools which have magnet programs must meet the academic requirements set by the state. In order for our campus to continue receiving funding for its STEM Magnet Program, we must show academic student growth this year and/or “Meet Standard.” However, as an IB World School (which is campus-wide), Hogg follows the IB curriculum, which requires students to do coursework related to technology. At Hogg, the technology component is centered around STEM, so either way, STEM instruction will remain an important part of our campus in the future. The funding Hogg receives for its magnet program is relatively minimal. We don’t want to lose this funding, but it represents just 1.4% of the school’s total budget. All other costs, such as the STEM Academy and Infinity Project curriculum materials, already come from campus funds. The plan is for Hogg M.S. to “Meet Standard” this school year and show student growth. How can we not with all the great things we have in place right now?

  2. […] here for the background. This is a phase-out, not a reversal, so the schools and students will have time […]

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