HISD votes to cut some teaching jobs

April 12, 2012 8:27:35 PM PDT
Dozens of teaching positions in the Houston Independent School District were be eliminated Thursday. The district says it's necessary to save money and help the students, but not everyone agrees.

It's been described as the greatest budget cut to education by the Texas Legislature since World War II -- a $122 million fund reduction over a two-year period which lead to 720 HISD teachers being let go for the current school year, with 300 rehired. Students and parents have been dealing with the new normal in public education ever since.

"We lost a teacher at Condit (Elementary) and had to cut a section from first and second grade, so my daughter is in a combined first and second grade class," said parent Julia Tamm.

Now Phase 2 of reductions in force, or RIFs, trustees voted to eliminate 66 teaching jobs. Off that number, 26 were from special education.

It's also about declining enrollment and consolidating some schools according to the district.

"Every year, we have principals who have to reduce their budgets. That's why this year is different than last year," said HISD Spokesperson Jason Spencer.

Teachers whose jobs are eliminated can apply for available classroom positions within HISD, but it's the principal's decision as to who's hired, and Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon believes it's about salaries and seniority.

"The principals get to override seniority and if I give you extra duties that overrides seniority with no clear definition of what performance is," Fallon said.

In other news, elementary school kids in HISD are more likely to get a break now. Trustees approved a resolution -- created and championed by a mother in the district -- that guarantees 30 minutes of supervised recess each school day for elementary school children. Many view recess as a needed component in education, and point out that recess should not replace PE classes.

And despite the pleas and protests of parents, students and community leaders, board members voted to lose the Kaleidoscope Charter School in southwest Houston. The district says merging Kaleidoscope with Long Middle School will give students access to more electives, clubs and organizations. Parents are worried that the students, many of whom are refugees or speak English as a second language, will lose the unique learning environment customized for bilingual students.


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