Options being considered to trim HISD's budget

February 25, 2011 4:35:48 PM PST
As Texas lawmakers debate over a possible $5 billion cut in state education funding, local districts are scrambling to figure out what programs and services might have to be eliminated. Minh Tran has a special connection to Bellaire High School. Not only did he graduate from there, he learned to speak English through Bellaire's magnet program. So the possibility of cutting back or eliminating magnet programs is upsetting to him.

"You would remove any opportunity for a student to learn and advance in an academic environment and to be with the same group of students to excel in an area that they would not otherwise have," said Tran.

Desperate to balance their budget, eliminating or cutting magnet programs is on the table for HISD trustees; it's an issue they talked about for more than six hours Thursday at a marathon budget meeting.

New numbers in from the state show HISD is facing a historic $171 million projected shortfall in state funding. Options to cut include a one percent pay cut across the board at HISD, closing smaller schools, cutting 26 HISD police officers and changing transportation routes for school buses.

They are options the superintendent says he doesn't like, but is forced to consider.

"When you only have a certain size pot of money, you can't cut it up and slice and dice it but a few ways and the sadness is every way you cut, it has a negative impact on our students," said HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier.

Meanwhile, one parent with whom we spoke says one option that should not be an option is cutting magnet programs.

"I think the bigger picture for us is that a lot of parents who support their school might choose to go to a private school instead of a public school and everybody suffers," said parent Bruce Coffman.

A recent audit of the magnet program suggested shutting down 55 out of 113 existing magnet programs and even if HISD did that, it would only be two percent of HISD's total budget. But in a year where every cent is being looked at, that is a consideration.