Houston area schools are facing possible cuts in state funding, and a bruising in the court of public opinion, by making up days missed earlier this year because of icy roads.
With little fat built into the spring school calendar and several days of mandatory state testing, Houston schools have little choice but to make up the two days missed because of January ice scares on Good Friday, Memorial Day or at the end of the school year.
“There hadn’t been a bad weather day for so long, no one was paying attention,” said Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “Our winters are usually not the problem. It’s usually those fall hurricanes.”
The Houston Independent School District has opted to make up the two missed days on April 18 and May 26. By holding classes on Good Friday, HISD can take advantage of a little-known exception that permits Texas schools to receive state funding for absent students with a written notice that they are observing a religious holiday.
Districts making up class on April 17 could also grant excused absences for a travel day ahead of a religious holiday, according to state law.
Typically, schools are funded at a daily rate of roughly $35 per student in attendance each day, meaning low attendance on a single day could cost HISD and other districts millions of dollars, according to Texas Education Agency data.
Some folks are upset that HISD picked Good Friday and Memorial Day as the makeup days as opposed to shaving a day off of Spring Break or adding a day at the end of the year, but from a budgetary perspective these choices made the most sense. If you’re unhappy about this, I recommend you direct your displeasure at the Legislature and Rick Perry for their devastating cuts to public education in 2011 and their refusal to fully restore those cuts in 2013. I would also point out that one candidate for Governor this fall promises to fully fund public education, while the other continues to defend those budget cuts in court. You want to do something about this, that would be your best opportunity.