New budget may put HISD back on track

April 21, 2010 4:38:45 PM PDT
Houston ISD's classrooms are expected to run on a leaner budget, as more than 400 jobs, including 99 teaching positions, already have been cut. Balancing the $1.7 million budget has been a tight-rope walk for HISD Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett, who is now looking at cutting overtime.

"We need to take some of this overtime money we have and convert it into some positions and just hire people to do the work," Garrett said.

HISD has a $2.5 million budget shortfall, but it's expected to be balanced by consolidating vendor contracts, meaning cutting back on several contracts for several schools in favor of consolidating.

The district also plans to cut longtime non-teaching vacant positions, as well as overtime.

Sen. Mario Gallegos, a critic of HISD's Superintendent Terry Grier, recently issued a letter condemning Grier's actions to cut jobs and change the administrative level.

"Dr. Grier has not demonstrated his ability to change the dropout rate," Gallegos wrote in the letter. "He has rhetoric, but he doesn't have results."

Grier says results are happening, and budget cuts are necessary. He says he realizes he's being criticized for doing too much too soon.

"All we're doing is we're trying to teach kids how to read--literacy. We're trying to affect our graduation rate and our dropout rate," Grier said. "Everything we're doing is about high student performance and closing the achievement gap."

Balancing that budget is a work in progress. The school board is expected to get an update next month and then an expected vote on that budget in June.