Millions of dollars in federal stimulus money is being set aside to fund Houston Independent School District summer school programs this year -- though it’ll be millions less than the district has spent in previous years, which could mean fewer summer programs offered at fewer schools and to fewer students.
HISD administrators are recommending the move as the district’s go-to summer school funding sources dry up -- that’s no small amount of money, as roughly one HISD student in four attended summer school last year. To fill the gap the district plans on using $14 million in federal stimulus money.
“This money will not be here next year,” HISD’s chief financial officer, Melinda Garrett, said. “The stimulus money is gone, and we will need to find other money to fund summer school in the future.”
The stimulus money, paired with an additional $2.4 million drawn from special education funds, will nearly cover all of the estimated $16.4 million cost of 2011 summer school. The school district, which has more than 200,000 students, had nearly 55,000 kids in summer school last year, and teachers’ salaries is the largest expense for it.
The $14 million proposed to HISD trustees Thursday is a big jump from what administrators were proposing in July: just $1.9 million.
In July e-mails and presentation documents Texas Watchdog obtained through the state public information act, HISD was planning to nearly wipe out district funding for summer school, slashing it from $21 million to just $1.9 million. And to make up for the cuts, the district had planed on making the individual schools largely pay their own way for summer programs.
Instead, the school system is plugging the hole with stimulus cash aimed at boosting achievement among poor students.
HISD’s chief academic officer, Chuck Morris, said individual schools will still have to use money from their own budgets to cover the costs of enrichment programs for students who are passing classes and moving forward a grade level but who want extra academic experiences over the summer.
According to HISD, last year’s summer school programs cost $21.2 million in Title I funding. This year the district expects to serve close to 700 fewer students than last year, 54,140, and spend close to $7 million less.
In order to do more with less, Morris suggests date changes, satellite campuses and a trustee-approved service priority list which would give priority to students needing to pass state proficiency tests. According to the recommendations, priority would be given in the following order:
- Fifth and eighth-grade students who need to re-take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
- Students failing to be promoted to the next grade level.
- High school seniors who still need to meet graduation requirements and/or pass TAKS.
- High school juniors who are not on schedule to graduate on time.
- Ninth graders who have failed three or more courses.
- Students who speak English as a second language who are in transition.
- Students one or more years behind in reading or math.
The $14 million will be used to cover the costs of programs associated with those priorities. Most of the money will be used to cover the cost of teacher salaries during the summer months.
Morris, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier and other administrators made it clear that individual schools can opt to fund additional programs to serve students outside he priority list -- but the funding must come from the individual schools’ budgets or be paid for through tuition fees.
What do you think about the way HISD is planning on funding summer school? Texas Watchdog wants to hear from you. Contact Lynn Walsh, Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org, 713-228-2850 or on Twitter @LWalsh.
Classroom photo by flickr user Liz (Perspicacious.org), used under a Creative Commons license.