Houston, Texas– A transformation is underway at Houston ISD at a time when the district anticipates budget deficits in the coming years, including a $31 million deficit projected for the 2022-23 fiscal year that began in July.
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The first part of a strategic plan to transform HISD was realized on June 9 when district trustees unanimously approved the budget for fiscal year 2022-23. It included an average pay rise of about 11% for all district teachers. The starting salary for a new teacher increased more than 8% from $56,869 to $61,500.
“This will be the largest increase HISD has achieved [its] history,” Jackie Anderson, president of the Federation of Teachers’ HISD chapter, told trustees at the June 9 meeting. “If you want students to learn and to feel safe and valued, you need to do the same for staff. “
However, several trustees, along with Superintendent Millard House II, were quick to point out that the pay rises were made possible in part thanks to one-off federal coronavirus relief funds through the federal Primary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief Program. Unless significant changes are made in the near future, the district faces a potential “fiscal cliff” in the 2024-25 school year, House said.
“These resources have allowed us to make large investments in our students and teachers, but we know those funds are not permanent,” House said.
As they process federal aid funds, district leaders are looking at ways they can save money later, a process that will include cuts in headquarters funding and possibly school consolidation.
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The approved budget of $2.26 billion is expected to result in a deficit of $31 million in fiscal 2022-23, according to the district.
Approximately $102 million in one-time ESSER funds will be used to plug holes, including $52 million to pay salaries. An additional $50 million will be allocated for indirect costs, including discretionary money for the district’s most-needed campuses, House said.
“This budget commits to putting more resources directly into the hands of our campus leaders, especially as they lead, teach and learn in the shadow of a global pandemic…” House said.
In comments to Community Impact newspaper, Anderson said teachers who don’t feel supported are a key factor in the nationwide teacher shortage. Going forward, teachers must continue to sit at the table where educational decisions are made, she said.
As of June 16, the most recent data available, HISD had allocated approximately $614.57 million of its $1.16 billion ESSER funds, which comprise two separate packages named ESSER II and ESSER III. Approximately $363 million of funding has been disbursed to date.
The remaining ESSER II funds must be allocated in accordance with the ESSER guidelines by September 30, 2023, and the ESSER III funds by September 30, 2024. After that point, HISD will be on the hook to fund its compensation plan from its own budget.
The Bigger Picture
The teacher pay increases are part of a five-year strategic plan that House released in February, and future increases are expected to keep the district competitive, requiring a new approach to budgeting, House said.
District 5 Trustee Sue Deigaard said the budget is a step in the right direction for the district to be more competitive on pay. However, she said she has concerns about the sustainability of the budget.
“My biggest concern about this budget is what will happen in two years when the ESSER dollars run out,” she said. “How we balance the budget will either show children the path to success or leave them further behind.”
Although Deigaard voted to approve the budget in June, she described her vote then as reluctant. She said the budget didn’t include enough detail about how officials would ensure the money was targeted at the district’s greatest needs to actually help students learn, calling it the “North Star.”
“Balanced budget alone is not the measure of a successful school district,” she said. “These are all means to an end. The ultimate goal is: ‘Do children learn?'”
Going forward, HISD will work with consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal to get a deep dive into the finances, which will include identifying ways to improve efficiency and accountability, which Deigaard said gave her some comfort in approving the budget .
Many questions remain to be answered as to how the restructuring of the district will ultimately look like. Regardless of the form, it will be crucial to consider community feedback, said Trista Bishop-Watt, interim executive director of Houstonians for Greater Public Schools, a group working to improve the public’s understanding of how public schools and school boards work .
“Nobody wants to see school closures, but we have an enrollment problem in the district,” she said. “If communities are to be impacted, it needs to be a public, transparent process that considers not only the financial aspects, but also the impact on communities.”
the next steps
The start of the restructuring effort can be seen with the $60 million cut in HISD headquarters spending in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget, which includes downsizing of staff and administrative departments, House said. He stressed that no cuts had been made to the HISD police department, finance team or legal services.
House gave a general overview of how he sees the district’s “fiscal transformation” over the next few years.
During the 2022-23 school year, House said the district would conduct a cost-benefit analysis to better inform how it should spend its money and find ways to more accurately shape its budgets. In the short term, he said, the district is developing budget guidelines to better help school leaders with financial management.
Details of what the reorganization might look like are expected to be released this fall, and community engagement sessions will be held in the spring semester to gather input from stakeholders. House said the goal is for the district to introduce a new budgeting process at the start of the 2023-24 school year.
When it comes to improving academic outcomes, House said the move to pay teachers more is an important first step.
“In order for HISD to attract and retain staff at a time of national job training shortages, we know this investment is imperative,” House said.
This content was provided by our partners at Community Impact Newspaper.
https://abc13.com/houston-isd-teacher-pay-hisd-increase-budget-federation-of-teachers/12109226/ Houston ISD increases teacher salaries in budget 2022-23 and addresses structural deficit