More HISD job cuts stun employees who serve low-income students: 'No one is really safe'

Rosie Nguyen Image
Tuesday, May 7, 2024
HISD budget cuts: District employees feel blindsided after their positions were eliminated to make up for $450M gap
According to the district, the budget shortfall was caused by a combination of decreased student enrollment, COVID relief funds running out, and the state's unwillingness to raise public school funding.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More job cuts from Houston ISD came as a shock for the group of employees who were informed last week that their positions would be eliminated, partly to make up for a $450 million budget deficit in the district.

These employees are wraparound resource specialists working with economically disadvantaged students on poverty-related issues. Some of the services they provide include transportation, clothing, shelter, special needs support, mental health resources, food pantries, and telehealth services.

One of them spoke to ABC13 under the condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation.

"It's super sad. These families that we help are the most vulnerable to HISD. They need the help on campus because they don't have a vehicle and can't go outside the school to find these resources. The closest place they have is the school, which is basically a sanctuary for them and it's being taken away. It's going to affect their schooling," the specialist said.

SEE ALSO: HISD could face deficit of $280 million if changes not made before the 2025 school year, report says

She said most of the district's specialists, including her, were informed in a Zoom call last Thursday that their employment would be terminated at the end of the school year.

"When we initially received notice that there were going to be budget cuts in HISD, we heard rumors. Every time we asked our superiors what was going on, they would tell us not to worry. We were assured that things were okay and we weren't going to be cut. That's why this was a surprise," the employee said. "This is a sign that no one is really safe. There is a lot of uncertainty."

Superintendent Mike Miles has previously blamed the budget shortfall on financial decisions made by the previous administration. The district said it's also due to declining student enrollment, COVID relief money running out, and failure from the state to increase public school funding after 2019.

READ MORE: HISD announces no school closures for 2024-2025 among other details on managing district's budget

In a statement, an HISD spokesperson wrote, "Like most school districts, HISD is being forced to make some very difficult budget decisions for next school year. State funding for education has not increased, and time-limited COVID aid from the federal government (known as ESSER) ends with this school year."

The district spokesperson explained that since wraparound supports at the campus level have been funded by ESSER and since that money will not be available going forward, the positions will be reduced to a division and district level for next school year.

"As we've said previously, the district is working to keep cuts as far away from kids and classrooms as possible and is continuing to invest in our teachers and leaders. Many HISD departments are seeing a reduction in force and that process has been ongoing since January. HISD will support impacted employees who wish to remain at the district in pursuing open positions in other departments," an HISD spokesperson said.

SEE ALSO: 'Is this for real?' HISD uses prerecorded video announcing special education teachers' job cuts

Jessica Sanchez said she and her friend each have four kids in HISD, and these specialists have helped them through extremely tough times. She told ABC13 in Spanish that she doesn't know what they'll do if they lose access to these services.

"I was thinking that maybe I will need to look for help in other places, like a church. It was so easy to have that help right at the school. It was perfect," Sanchez said.

HISD would not answer inquiries about how many wraparound resource specialist positions they will cut or what is in the next round of budget cuts. Those whose jobs will be eliminated said their last day of work will be June 28.

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