The state of HISD schools

February 17, 2009 4:30:28 PM PST
With the economy in a recession, area school districts have made big cutbacks over the past few months trying to get a handle on finances.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Abe Saavedra Tuesday gave an outlook of what's in store for the state's largest school district.

Improvements in test scores, dropout recovery, and teacher pay were all achievements Dr. Saavedra highlighted in his annual State of the School address at the GRB Convention Center. He also pointed out the district faces tough challenges.

"We also have bills to pay for fuel, utilities, insurance, all the basics," said Dr. Saavedra.

The superintendent blamed budget challenges on a faulty equation. State funding is not growing while the cost of educating children is increasing.

"We have increased costs whether they're utilities, insurance, whatever they may be. We started this process about two months ago. We are literally reviewing every one of our departments, every one of our areas to determine where we can cut some costs and become more efficient," said Dr. Saavedra.

Dr. Saavedra expects tens of thousands of dollars to be slashed from the budget that's due in June, but he insists those cuts will not be felt in the classroom.

"We will develop our budget for the coming year, identifying reductions in non-instructional areas," he said.

Relief from budget woes could come in the form of the taxpayer-funded federal stimulus package.

As the largest district in state, HISD stands to receive $158.6 million in funding of Title I programs that serve low-income students and special education students. That funding could come at just the right time and lessen the force of the budget cuts.

Dr. Saavedra did not mention any specific budget cuts but he did say every HISD department is examining its expenditures and looking to trim costs.

Earlier this month, Dr. Saavedra surprised the district by announcing that he would leave by the end of next school year. He has been superintendent for more than five years. HISD is planning a nationwide search for his replacement.

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