By Loretta Brock Fb -The People Hold The Purse
Dr. Terry Grier, Superintendent of Houston Independent School District, so eloquently expressed in his interview published in African American News July 20, 2014, has given us many of his truths upon which we can have a fact based conversation concerning the education of minority children in HISD both in the minority community and locations outside of the minority community.
1) I have not taken a survey of those who are leading the charge for equity in education to determine who is sending their child to the neighborhood school and who is not. If I did administer such a survey, I would have a section for an explanation as to why the choice for the student was to not attend the neighborhood school. This is not an ad hominem argument, as such, this information is only relevant to the extent that in identifies the deficiencies in the neighborhood schools. This information is not sufficient for the purpose of discrediting the argument for equity in education by persons whose children may or may not be attending the neighborhood schools.
2) Dr. Grier documented a profound observation in the referenced article, “I don’t want any child dropping out of school”, he said “if you are an African American male, and you drop out, there is an 85% chance you will be incarcerated before your 25th birthday. We all know that and see that and I worry that we are not doing enough about it.” The community agrees with the validated facts in this statement. You can demonstrate your “worry” for the African American and other minority males by reversing or issuing moratoriums on policies or the implementation of policies or practices that have proven to be chief contributory factors in lessening the population of our neighborhood schools.
3) “The money follows the child” is one such policy/practice. This policy is the supreme complement to the site based management model. His allows for the school’s budget to be based on a PUA (per unit allowance) for all students attending the school not including facilities maintenance cost inclusive of utilities as well as transportation. By systemically, whether inadvertently or advertently, programs have been moved from the neighborhood schools or duplicated on campuses with more capital improvements and/or located in more affluent neighborhoods thereby, acting as a true magnet, and drawing students away for our schools. If the budget was centralized, not including magnet, special education, Title I and discretionary funding, all schools basic needs would be met by the district and schools would not have to choose between books and computers or librarians and teachers.
4) Jones High School, the first school addressed in the article, represents numerous variables that can be examined individually, to measure the affect on the school population. A sampling of these variables include:
Removal of the vanguard program;
Mandated participation in the only School Wide Magnet Program in HISD;
Magnet program not embraced by the community Architectural Engineering;
Further decline in the Jones population could possibly be dramatically affected by the following new revisions for Jones:
Removal of UIL competition from Jones; (African American males???)
Jones conversion to a Futures Academy with no traditional students;
Difficulty in enrolling students into Jones as the Jones office was relocated to Bastian Elementary; as of the end of summer courses at Bastian, no one has been available to assist students in enrolling in the Futures Program at Jones; Jones enrollment has almost come to a halt due to inconsistency in personnel location for enrollment.
Is it possible to get clarity concerning the 3 million dollar per year Jones budget? How many administrators were there for the 450 students? What was their pay and function? Have these cost been offset by the South Early College housed at Jones? Is approximately 22 million dollars leaving the Sunnyside area annually as a result of students not attending neighborhood schools?
5) The question of literacy is crucial to the success of our students. We, the community accept your invitation to come to the schools and volunteer in the classrooms with the students. Campuses have not been so welcoming in the not so distant past. Many community members would love to come in the classrooms to observe, assist and read aloud. If libraries were properly maintained, students could go to the library and check out books rather than have the teacher’s take on yet another responsibility, classroom librarian. It is almost unbelievable; the same board meeting at which Grier and his administration advised that the funds were available to pay almost ten million dollars for books, the board was also advised that funds were not available to pay for the $26.00 raise on the agenda for teachers. Dr. Grier, due to the cut in state funding which was based on an increase in the tax rate as well as ad valorem real estate values, was the Grier administration, inclusive of CFO Ken Huweitt and yourself, Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier, know that there would be an approximately 60 million increase in tax revenues which would offset the approximately 16 million in funding we were cut by the state?
The buck stops where? The buck stops with the people!!