Houston ISD faces deep budget cuts, proposed budget draws concerns

Houston Independent School District (HISD) is grappling with significant budget cuts as it unveils its proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. 

FOX 26 looks into the proposed budget, revealing over half a billion dollars in cuts set to impact teachers, staff, and resources within the district.

SUGGESTED: Houston ISD Board Meeting: Students, parents, staff express concerns

According to HISD Superintendent Mike Miles, while these cuts were painful, they were deemed necessary to balance the budget. Chief Financial Officer Jim Terry emphasized that fiscal years 2022 to 2024 were previously supported by federal relief funds, which totaled over $1.2 billion and facilitated teacher pay raises. However, with these funds now depleted, the district faces substantial financial challenges, exacerbated by what Miles described as heavy reliance on these funds by the previous administration.

One of the key strategies outlined to mitigate the budget deficit is to increase classroom attendance rates, thereby securing more state funding. However, HISD anticipates a decline of 31,000 students from 2020 to 2025, prompting efforts to encourage more consistent class attendance throughout the academic year.

Despite these efforts, many students across the district staged walkouts this week to protest the removal of numerous principals, support staff, and programs. 

Superintendent Miles attributed these cuts directly to the budget shortfalls and low performance. 

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Vivienne Richard, an HISD student, voiced her concerns during the protests, questioning the decision to terminate numerous educators who play pivotal roles in students' lives. 

"Can you tell me why you're firing my math teachers, my ELA teachers, my science teachers, all of my educators?" questioned Richard. "To you, they might be dots of data, but to me and my peers, they are our biggest supporters."

Addressing concerns raised by current district trustees, there is a call for more comprehensive data to justify the proposed budget. District V Trustee Sue Deigaard stressed the importance of understanding how budgetary changes align with the district's goals for student achievement.

"You have a community right now that is really heightened in their concern, because there's not an elected board, and there's a lot of changes. So it feels to people this freight train blindsiding them, because there wasn't an earlier budget meeting."

The proposed budget reveals a staggering revenue shortfall of $528 million. Additionally, HISD plans to allocate $732 million for New Elementary Schools (NES). Despite criticism regarding the sustainability of this investment, Superintendent Miles defended the decision, noting that non-NES schools have also adopted the NES curriculum due to its perceived benefits.

The HISD Board is scheduled to vote on the budget on June 13.