Local school districts get creative to meet budget shortfall

HOUSTON Business relationships are encouraged at all HISD schools. We wanted to see how those relationships are surviving in the face of budget cuts and how critical those relationships might be.

Vam Drilling has been part of the East End landscape, in one form or another, for over 90 years and a consistent contributor to area schools like Chavez High School. However, tough economic times have seen a change.

"Unfortunately, the contributions have had decreased, however we can provide other avenues of resources such as mentorships and volunteering," said Kelly Sanchez of Vam Drilling.

That commitment is the result of a strong partnership with Chavez High School and its principal, Dan DeLeon.

"Principals have to make hard decisions and you decide what is best for your students and how you spend your money," said Principal DeLeon. "Sometimes, some of the extras have to go."

He is more aggressive than ever in cultivating corporate sponsorships for his school -- and he has to be. State budget cuts means Chavez High is getting about $1 million less this year. Relationships with local businesses means extras, such as field trips, will continue.

In the Clear Creek School District, buses will look different this year. Like HISD, CCISD is turning more to local businesses as a way to fill the state funding gap. CCISD is selling advertising on its school buses and on its website. It's not a new concept, but it's new for the district determined not to raise taxes.

"We're in the heart of NASA we are so cognizant and aware of the trials and tribulations and the struggles that our families are going through. We can't go out and ask for a tax increase without us doing our due diligence," said Elaina Polson, CCISD spokesperson.

But its this old school on the East End that provides one of the more unique money-saving strategies we found. Instead of tearing down the 100-year-old original Cage Elementary, HISD has entered into a unique partnership with the city of Houston. Pending board approval, the city will take ownership of the property in exchange for credit on fees for future development.

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