At the August 11, 2011 meeting of the HISD School Board the trustees voted send the $18.5 million budget surplus to the schools by increasing the PUA (Per Unit Allocation) by $85 per student. Principals will have a wide discretion on how this money can be spent but they are allowed to hire personnel with this money. This means that it is now possible to re-open some of the positions that were closed due to budget cuts. The reality is that only schools with more than 600 students will receive enough money to support a full time teacher but this is a great win for employees and students. Principals need to be encouraged to look seriously at restoring positions that were closed. They can be creative by bringing people back part time or by sharing teachers with other schools. We also cannot forget that non-teaching positions were also eliminated. Clerks, secretaries, teacher assistants, custodial, and food service employees can also be re-hired with this money.
The best news is that this is a permanent, not a one-time increase in the PUA. There was much discussion among the trustees about the wisdom of making this increase permanent in light of further anticipated reductions in state funding for the 2012-2013 school year. A fear was expressed that the PUA will need to be decreased next year to accommodate these cuts regardless of the "permanent" increase. This is a possibility. The Board can increase or decrease the PUA each year when it sets a budget. It has always been able to do this and next year will be no different. We have to be clear that the budget that was passed is only for the 2011-2012 school year. Any employee who can be re-hired will be glad to have even one more year of employment. That is one more year of mortgage payments, rent payments, car payments, tuition payments and in general supporting themselves, their families, and the Houston economy. Most of all it is one more year of helping the children and serving the people of Houston. A special thanks must go to Trustee Anna Eastman (District I) for making this bold and ultimately very wise motion. Hopefully when the Board meets next year to make budgetary decisions the trustees will realize that making cuts to the schools is not the only way to eliminate budget shortfalls. HISD still has the lowest tax rate in Harris County. A modest tax increase can eliminate the anticipated budget shortfall.
Along with Anna Eastman we must thank the other four trustees who voted for her amendment to make the increase permanent: Carol Mims Galloway (District II), Manuel Rodriguez (District III), Juliet Stipeche (District VIII), and Lawrence Marshall (District IX).
Trustee Michael Lunceford (District V) was absent from the meeting.
We must express our extreme disappointment at the three trustees who voted against the motion. Paula Harris (District IV), Greg Myers (District VI) and Harvin Moore (District VII). Shame on you for not placing the needs of the schools ahead of the desire to keep HISD taxes the lowest in the county. Trustee Myers expressed this sentiment very clearly with this statement: "The last thing I want to do is pass on a tax increase. I won't support it."
6 hours ago