HISD eases Vangaurd cuts in latest budget proposal

The Houston Independent School District has modified a controversial proposal to standardize future magnet school funding.

During the April 24 budget workshop, HISD administration proposed eliminating extra funding for Vanguard programs that serve gifted and talented students to redistribute funding more equally across non-magnet schools.

On May 15, the administration modified the proposal to fund Vanguard programs at a flat $410 per student, which will significantly ease the cuts across schools.

The changes have mixed effects on schools.  Lanier will make out the best of all Vanguard schools in the district, actually gaining roughly $348,000 in total funds from this year’s budget. Carnegie Vanguard would lose about $88,000.

Locally, the original proposal would have cut about $53,000 from the budget for Lanier Middle School, which offers a Vanguard program. Carnegie Vanguard High School would have faced cuts of about $390,000 under the proposal, according to the school’s Parent Teacher Organization newsletter.

Reed also provided a copy of of the current proposal’s projected financial impact on magnet program funding on a school-to-school basis.

The $410 will come in addition to the state-mandated $400 per gifted pupil in attendance that each school receives under Texas state law.

Under the revised magnet funding proposal, several other categories of schools received a boost in proposed annual subsidies. Fine Arts and medical career programs got a $100 boost at the high school level from $1,000 to $1,100. Elementary language magnet programs will also receive a boost of $50 per pupil to $100.

Schools with International Baccalaureate programs, like Lamar High School, receive $50 per enrolled pupil in annual subsidies under both proposals.

District spokesperson Sheleah Reed said that HISD took a variety of issues into account while developing the proposal.

“There is no magical formula to determining how much funding each magnet theme should receive,” she wrote in a May 21 e-mail interview.

“In developing our recommended per-pupil allocations by magnet theme, we took a variety of things into consideration including, a review of magnet funding practices – both across HISD and across the U.S., a review of current funding at HISD’s unique, highly successful whole-school magnets programs, the need for specialized staffing needs for various programs, the availability of funding sources for students in the various programs and the desire to fund each theme equitably across the district.” she added.

Table 1 shows a complete list of the May 15 proposal and its changes from the original April 24 budget proposal.

Table 1: May 15 HISD Standardized magnet program funding proposal   (parentheses show change from April 24 proposal)
Program type Elementary Middle High School
Fine Arts $350 $250 $1100 (+$100)
IB $50 $50 $50
Vanguard $410 (+$410) $410 (+$410) $410 (+$410)
Montessori $350 $350
STEM $100 $125 $125
Languages $100 (+$50) $50 $50
Early College $50
Futures Academy $500
Medical Career Program $1,100 (+$100)
Criminal Justice $500
Other Career Program $50
All other Programs $100 (+$50) $100 (+$50) $100 (+$50)
Source: Houston Public School District 5-15 budget presentation page 7

Any changes phase in over two years, with 25 percent of the cost shift occurring in the 2014-15 school year, and the remainder occurring in 2015-2016.

Public discussion and potential medication of budget proposal will continue until June 19, when the board will vote to ratify an official budget for the 2014-15 year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated on 5-21-2014 at 4:30 p.m. to reflect statements from HISD’s spokesperson and add specific information about the financial impact of the magnet funding proposal on individual schools.