Teacher pay raises and magnet school funding changes are the main points of interest.
Thanks to rising property values, all Houston ISD employees would receive raises and schools would get more money for supplies, field trips or tutors next year under a budget proposal drawing complaints for its long-term cuts to some popular magnet programs.
For property owners, next year also is expected to bring the first round of a tax rate increase tied to the construction bond package passed by voters in 2012, according to HISD’s financial chief, Ken Huewitt.
The school board is set to vote Thursday on the district’s $1.7 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year. Trustees will not adopt the tax rate until October, but Huewitt projects it will rise by 1 or 2 cents. The amount depends on the district’s final property values, which aren’t certified until August.
Huewitt said he likely could keep the rate hike to a penny if the board doesn’t add more money to schools’ budgets. However, some trustees have said schools need additional funds particularly after state budget cuts in 2011 led to job losses.
Any tax rate increase would come on top of the 3-cent hike the board approved last year to help fund low-performing schools and raises.
The current tax rate is $1.1867 per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a $200,000 home pays $1,720 in taxes, with the district’s tax breaks.
“I think it’s a very good budget,” Huewitt said. “All along we’ve been talking about what our priorities are. If we really believe an effective teacher in every classroom is important, we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is.”
Under Superintendent Terry Grier’s budget proposal, teacher salaries would increase by at least $1,100 with some rising by double that amount, Huewitt said. Other staff would get a 3 percent raise.
Generating the most controversy is Grier’s plan to standardize funding for magnet programs and other specialty schools, which have themes like fine arts or serve gifted students. Some schools would gain tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over three years. Others would lose the same amount.
Softening cuts to the specialty schools, Grier has proposed upping the budgets for all campuses by $55 per student.
Some school board members have said they want to double that extra money for all schools and hope to amend the budget proposal Thursday.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get more money to our schools – which would be great because they desperately need support staff and librarians and counselors,” said school board president Juliet Stipeche.
See here and here for the background, and these two K12 Zone posts for more on the revised magnet funding formulae, which remain subject to further change. It’s nice that there’s more money being put into the budget for magnet school programs, but I still don’t understand, and I suspect a lot of other people don’t understand, what the bottom line is. It would be very helpful if HISD could explain, in sufficiently small words, what the district’s vision for its magnet school program is and what the factors are that affect how a given school is funded for it. Maybe it will be a little clearer after the budget is adopted, but the overall lack of communication on this has made the process a lot harder than it needs to be.