Can you email the HISD trustees and superintendent about the budget today?

Texas is one of a small number of states that fund public schools based on average daily attendance. Within Texas, most districts fund schools based on the number of students enrolled in school (“enrollment-based funding”). HISD, however, funds its schools based upon average daily attendance. 

How are these models different? 

Think about a school where students struggle the most to go to school, where they may not have a coat in the winter, and whose family may not have a car to drive to school when it is raining. Families are less likely to have health insurance. When children are sick, they are ill more severely and longer. Older children may have to stay home with sick siblings. These circumstances will negatively impact the attendance rate.

As a consequence, school funding—since it is tied to attendance rates—suffers in poor neighborhoods. In HISD’s current per unit allocation (PUA) model, the school’s funding is reduced for low attendance.

Let’s compare two hypothetical schools, both slated to receive an annual budget of two million dollars based on the same number of children enrolled in the school. The school with a 90% attendance rate would receive almost $200,000 less in annual funding than a school with an attendance rate closer to 100%.

An attendance-based funding model bakes in a poverty penalty. It costs more, not less to educate kids in under-resourced communities with barriers to attendance. 

At a minimum, we should fund schools primarily based on enrollment and not attendance, providing equal funding for each child regardless of attendance.  In an equitable funding model, additional financial support should go to schools that struggle with low attendance, to help address barriers to attendance and help get students caught up academically.

It is unconscionable that we do the reverse.

Will you email your school board member and superintendent this short letter?

Dear Superintendent House and Trustees,

Thank you for the work you do. In HISD’s PUA budget model, we should fund schools based on enrollment and not attendance, providing equal funding regardless of attendance. To do otherwise is to penalize schools with families who need us the most. Thank you for your time.

Their email addresses are [email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected].

You may also want to share your feedback about other budget issues whether it is to ask HISD Admin to look even deeper at central office funding cuts such as contracted services that have outlived their usefulness and reducing the number of SSOs. HISD’s allocation for direct instruction (teacher pay, smaller class size, etc.) is below that of surrounding districts. There is still work to be done to reduce Central Office excess.

There are also other poverty penalties besides attendance-based funding that need to be addressed. High-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and promotes principal and faculty turnover most in high-need schools, largely due to state pressure. Nonetheless, HISD can reduce STAAR’s high stakes in a number of ways. It can end locally determined benchmarking like the Renaissance 360 contract, and the use of STAAR to evaluate, reward, and fire principals and teachers. 

The unrelenting focus on STAAR means that principals and faculty in neighborhoods serving high-need students get replaced at alarming rates that don’t happen elsewhere. This leads to endless turnover and the loss of stability and innovation in schools that need it the most.  And when the principal raises test scores, empowers teachers to do their best work, and builds community on a high-need campus, they are promoted up and out. So a high-need school cannot win for losing.

And so it goes.



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