On HISD’s budget issues

They’re Mike Miles’ problem now. It would be nice if he shared with us how he intends to deal with them.

Last fall, when Houston ISD’s new superintendent, Mike Miles, first laid out his expensive plans for Texas’ largest district, several key dominoes still had to fall regarding HISD’s financial future.

Would the number of students enrolled in the district change? Would HISD receive new funds from the state legislature? What would Miles’ overhaul plans look like past Year One?

Now, as HISD begins its process of budgeting for next year, some tiles have landed — and they haven’t gone HISD’s way.

A combination of lost funds, missed opportunities and new programs means HISD will have to find or cut hundreds of millions of dollars to balance next year’s budget if Miles wants to stick to his blueprint for overhauling the district, a Houston Landing analysis shows.

The size of HISD’s budget hole — which totals $250 million this year — raises questions about how Miles will ensure the financial sustainability of Texas’ largest district without cutting some of its roughly 24,500 employees. About three-quarters of HISD’s yearly spending, expected to reach $2.2 billion this year, pays for staff salaries. The other quarter goes to supplies, contracted services, building maintenance and other costs.

Miles has pledged to balance HISD’s budget, acknowledging cuts may be necessary. However, the state-appointed superintendent has declined to discuss which jobs or programs might be impacted. He has vowed student learning and classroom instruction would not be hurt by cost-saving measures.

“In order to expand in some of the areas and prioritize, that means some other areas are deprioritized,” Miles said in mid-December.

But achieving significant cost savings would likely require making significant staffing cuts, not just trimming other parts of the budget, said Bradley Davis, associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Houston.

“If you’re making fractional cuts there to what’s already a fractional portion of the overall budget, that doesn’t strike me as sufficient … to address these larger shortfalls,” Davis said.

The specifics of HISD’s spending plans will likely come into focus in May, when Miles has said his team will present a draft budget to the district’s board of trustees. However, many of the factors contributing to potential financial challenges have already solidified.


As HISD faces financial headwinds and simultaneously lays out plans for expensive programming, onlookers are questioning the long-term viability of the district’s direction.

University of Texas at Austin education professor David DeMatthews, who has criticized Miles’ leadership, said he worries the new programs will only be able to last a couple years before funding dries up.

“(If) a year later, two years later, you can’t sustain any of these changes, the investment is not going to be really wise,” DeMatthews said. “I think that needs to be a really big concern right now for everyone in the district.”

The story lays out seven areas of concern for HISD in its budget. Some of that Mike Miles inherited, some of it can be laid squarely at Greg Abbott’s feet for holding any public school appropriation increases hostage to his bizarre voucher mania, and some of it is Miles’ NES and other plans. As I’ve said before, I’m very much in favor of boosting teacher and staffer pay, and I’m very much in favor of boosting resources to the schools, but we do need to pay for it, the state is not helping at all, and Mike Miles has been considerably less than forthcoming about how he intends to pay for the things he wants to do. Let’s start with that last bit, and go from there. At least we have some control over that.

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2 Responses to On HISD’s budget issues

  1. Manny says:

    I think his plan and the Republican’s plan is to leave HISD broke. He answers not to the voters or the board he selected.

    He claims scores are up, but another agency claims they are down.


  2. Jennifer says:

    To the above comment, the Children at Risk ratings were for the 22-23 school year, under Superintendent Millard House. The gains made are this fall semester under the new administration. NWEA/MAP is test with a good reputation that is used around the nation. That is what was used to show significant gains in NES schools.

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