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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

School finance system ruled unconstitutional again

A little light reading for your holiday weekend. Nearly three years after more than 600 Texas school districts filed litigation challenging the state’s school finance system, a Travis County district judge has ruled in their favor. In an almost 400-page opinion released Thursday, District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin said that the state’s school […]

More education policy from Davis

A lot to like here. Saying she wants to expand Texas high schoolers’ access to technical job training programs, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis announced a plan to create a Career-Technical Coordinating Board. The plan is the latest in a string of education reform proposals from Davis. It also includes recommendations on college affordability and […]

Teachers are doing it for themselves

I know this is intended to be an upbeat story, but I can’t help but find it a little depressing. Some tech-savvy teachers turned to the Web this summer to try to offset the nearly $500 typically spent to ready a classroom for the first day of school. Numerous Houston-area educators posted pleas on social […]

Parker proposes new firefighter pension plan

We’ll see about this. With the city of Houston facing huge and rising pension costs, Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday unveiled a proposal to put new firefighters in a separate, less generous plan that would do away with expensive automatic cost-of-living adjustments. The move would not affect current firefighters covered by the Houston Firefighters Relief […]

Just don’t call it “Medicaid expansion”

It’s the public policy that dare not have its name spoken, at least by Republican legislators. State lawmakers renewed efforts Thursday to find a “Texas solution” to expand health-insurance coverage for low-income residents without accepting the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Social-services advocates and local officials are among those pushing […]

From the files of privatization failures

A story from last week. State officials have decided to slow the rollout of a controversial overhaul of the foster-care system after the private contractor running a pilot program abruptly pulled out Friday. Judge John Specia, commissioner of the state Department of Family and Protective Services, said a second pilot of the overhaul will continue […]

Collier keeps up the attack

I really like the way he’s running his campaign. Democratic comptroller nominee Mike Collier says his Republican opponent Glenn Hegar bragged to a Houston-area tea party interviewer last year that he was proud of the Legislature’s 2011 budget cuts to public schools. On Friday, Collier released a web video to prove it. “It’s embarrassing and […]

Houston municipal employees may see health insurance costs get hiked again

It’s one of many possible proposals for closing the upcoming budget shortfall. A key option, [Mayor annise] Parker has said, is to increase the share of health care costs employees pay. The city now pays three-fourths, and employees pay one-fourth. “We have a very generous health benefits plan, even with the changes,” Parker said, referring […]

At an impasse

Doesn’t look like there will be any new collective bargaining agreement between the city and the firefighters this year. Houston’s firefighters union declared an impasse with the city over a new labor contract, which a union negotiator called a “slap in the face” on Thursday. The deadlock comes less than a month after Mayor Annise […]

Repealing the revenue cap is only part of the answer

Repealing the dumb revenue cap charter amendment from 2004 won’t solve the impending fiscal problems by itself. It’s still a good idea to repeal it. With an estimated $144 million budget shortfall looming next summer, the city’s finance director delivered a harsh message Tuesday: even lifting a voter-imposed revenue cap will not save the day. […]

It’s past time for a garbage fee

Yes, this. For years, Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department Director Harry Hayes has suggested the city implement a garbage fee to expand curbside recycling and pay for other initiatives. And for years, Mayor Annise Parker has demurred. Now, with a looming budget deficit that could force widespread layoffs and cuts to services, the idea may […]

Diverting ReBuild Houston funds

I don’t know about this. Expressing impatience with the pace of street repairs under the Rebuild Houston program, City Council on Wednesday voted to siphon off some of the drainage-fee supported funds to speed up projects and help resolve smaller neighborhood problems sought by their constituents. In an amendment to the city’s five-year $7.8 billion […]

We don’t need no (sex) education

Here’s the state of Texas leading the nation in yet another unflattering category. In Texas and across the country, the rate of teenage births has declined significantly since its peak in 1991. Birth rates among teenagers in Texas dropped 43 percent between 1991 and 2012. In states like California and Connecticut, the drop was even […]

Grits on the HPD staffing debate

Grits weighs in on the HPD no-investigations story with some suggestions for how to proceed. Here’s how to boost the number of police officers available on patrol while freeing up officers to work as detectives in the burglary and other backlogged divisions: Implement verified response for burglar alarm calls, requiring alarm companies to verify a […]

Teacher health insurance costs

Another thing on the list of things the Legislature needs to deal with but won’t. Health care insurance costs for hundreds of thousands of Texas teachers and other public school employees are scheduled to go up again this fall, prompting renewed calls from educator groups for the state to pick up more of the cost […]

We need more context to the HPD no-investigations issue

Regular commenter Steven Houston left this feedback on my “More reaction to the HPD no-investigations report” post. It raises some good points and helped me focus my thinking on a couple of things, so I wanted to reproduce it and react to it here. I’ve commented on this issue for years, including a number of […]

HISD passes its budget

They restored a lot of funding, but it’s the changes to magnet school funding that everyone is talking about. Bouncing back from recent cash-strapped years, the Houston school board Thursday approved a bigger budget that gives raises to all employees, provides more money to campuses and may require a tax rate increase. The board, over […]

Council adopts its budget for next year

Might be the last easy budget for a couple of years. The Houston City Council agreed to boost funding for after-school programs, add cameras to catch illegal dumpers and give $1 million to each district council office to spend on projects for their constituents during a marathon session Wednesday to approve Mayor Annise Parker’s $5.2 […]

HISD prepares its budget

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. […]

Firefighters union rejects contract deal

Oops. The contract rejected Tuesday by 93 percent of the roughly 2,900 firefighters voting would have taken a similar approach, granting a pay raise in exchange for concessions on members’ ability to take leave. With the no vote, as of July 1 members of Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 enter an “evergreen” period […]

On cops and the revenue cap

Mayor Parker again calls attention to the city’s stupid revenue cap and the things it will prevent the city from doing if it is left in place. If Houston voters do not want police pulled from the streets next year, Mayor Annise Parker says, they better think twice about a cap on city revenues they […]

City reaches contract agreement with firefighters

Give a little, get a little. Houston firefighters would give up some of their ability to schedule time off in return for a pay hike under a tentative new labor contract that city officials hope will enable them to rein in overtime costs that threatened to bust the fire department’s budget this year. The City […]

HISD magnet funding vote delayed till next week

You still have time to talk to your trustee about this. Superintendent Terry Grier’s administration has proposed standardizing how the programs are funded – a plan that would result in some schools losing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and others gaining as much. School board president Juliet Stipeche said Monday that she used […]

More reaction to the HPD no-investigations report

I’m not the only one that wasn’t impressed by Chief McClelland’s response. [Burglary victim Heather] Heinke’s experience is not unusual in the nation’s fourth-largest city. A recent HPD staffing study says that 15,000 burglaries and thefts, 3,000 hit-and-run crashes and 3,000 assaults were simply set aside last year without a follow-up investigation. Houston police commanders […]

McClelland’s response

I have to say, I’m not impressed. Defending his department’s failure to investigate thousands of crimes last year, Police Chief Charles McClelland on Thursday said the understaffed Houston Police Department does not and should not have a goal of aggressively probing every crime reported to it. “We work violent crimes first. If someone steals your […]

Culberson’s attempt to kill the Universities Line about to come up for a vote

From Houston Tomorrow: US Representative John Culberson has pushed an amendment through to the floor of the US House of Representatives to specifically deny Houston federal funding for rail transit in two corridors, according to the text of the bill HR4745 (page 52, section 165): SEC. 165. None of the funds in this or any […]

Bell op-ed for eliminating the revenue cap

More like this, please. A decade ago, Houston voters restricted city property tax revenues to the combined rates of inflation and population increases. Like most arbitrary rules that politicians apply to math, this revenue cap sounds like a great idea until it meets the realities of a growing and expanding city. During the Great Recession, […]

Those uninvestigated criminal cases

To say the least, this is big news. The Houston Police Department, already reeling from a scandal involving shoddy work in its homicide unit, was dealt another blow Monday when a report revealed that some 20,000 burglary, theft, assault and hit-and-run cases with workable leads were not investigated in 2013. The authors of the city-commissioned […]

TM talks to Mike Collier

He’s a really impressive candidate. What I’ve been surprised by in the past two years is how much farther right the state has gotten, even compared to someone like Rick Perry, who has, I think, been conservative by any normal standard. When Combs came back in 2013 reporting an $8.8 billion surplus—to me, that was […]

We’ve got some budget challenges coming

Some chickens are coming home to roost. Beginning next summer with fiscal year 2016, Houston will face a projected $142 million gap between expected revenues and expenses in its general fund, which is fed chiefly by property and sales taxes and funds most basic city services. That exceeds the $137 million budget gap Houston had […]

We could have better transportation infrastructure if we wanted it

House Speaker Joe Straus embraces the end-the-diversions approach to transportation funding. Texas’ booming economy and massive transportation needs are inching the state toward simplifying highway spending, officials say. The latest move to end so-called diversions from the State Highway Fund came Wednesday, when Speaker Joe Straus said the next Texas budget proposed by the House […]

Why revenue caps suck

I’ve been expecting this. Despite a booming economy that is the envy of much of the nation, the city of Houston could face hundreds of layoffs and cuts in service next year as it runs headlong into a revenue cap put in place by voters a decade ago. Mayor Annise Parker sounded the alarm Thursday […]

What is the deal with Vanguard funding?

It started with an urgent action email sent to Travis Elementary School parents: As you may have heard, the Houston ISD Board’s proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year would eliminate HISD Vanguard Magnet funding. These drastic cuts would threaten the viability of the Vanguard program at Travis. (see the April 24 Budget and PUA […]

More on Achievement School Districts

Chris Barbic, the founder of YES Prep and the superintendent of Tennessee’s Achievement School District, one of the models for Greg Abbott’s education plan, weighs in on what these things are and are not. First, by law, the Tennessee ASD charters can’t pick and choose their students; the charters are not open-enrollment schools. When a […]