AFL-CIO endorses HISD bond proposal

As was the case with the Greater Houston Partnership, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO had initially announced its decision to defer support of the HISD bond proposal until HISD got its act together. And as was the case with the GHP, they eventually decided to make an endorsement. Here’s their press release:

The Harris County AFL-CIO Council and the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council will announce their support of HISD’s $805 million bond and the introduction of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (USDOL-BAT) program Monday, October 8, 2007, at 10:00 a.m.

Union leaders and HISD officials were able to reach an agreement that will allow HISD graduates an opportunity to enter the join apprenticeship programs that employs the students though the union and academically trains them through the Houston Community College System (HCCS). Specifically, HISD has agreed to:

* The use of U.S. Department of Labor apprentice wage rates
* Monitoring and enforcement of wages and the use of apprentices conducted by Harris County’s contract compliance office
* Encouragement of contractor participation
* Penalties to assist the HISD’s Career and Technical Education (C.A.T.E.) program

“We’ve been working with HISD officials for many years to develop a program that gives the non-college bound student an opportunity and choice to earn a good wage in a respected profession,” states Ronnie Raspberry, Executive Secretary of the Building Trades. “HISD’s bond money will be spent twice – once for construction and again to train craftpersons that will fill jobs in the trades where shortages exist right now,” concluded Richard Shaw, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO Council.

The AFL-CIO and the Building Trades are also very much aware that many of their community friends are on the opposite side of this endorsement and fully respects their reasons for doing so. An inclusive and broad-based outreach process would have been the more prudent way to have approached the community in order to gain their support. We encourage HISD to continue to engage the community in a process that will earn their support of this bond election.

The apprenticeship program is something Reginald Adams mentions in the interview I did with him. At this point, most everyone whom you’d expect would support the HISD bond proposal has done so, with Reps. Sylvester Turner and Harold Dutton being the main exceptions. The odds of passage are a lot better than they were a month ago, most likely north of 50% though probably not by much. We’ll see who does a better job getting their people to the polls.

Speaking of Dutton, he laid out the anti-bond case yesterday in the Chron.

Literally thousands of students that HISD zones to schools in northeast Houston walk to a school around the corner near their house to catch a bus to go to another school — across town. Almost 45 percent of the students zoned to schools in northeast Houston do this every school day.

Along with many parents and students, I have continually complained about HISD’s cross-town education practice. HISD explains away arguments against this practice by hiding behind what it refers to as the district’s “choice” policy. Theoretically, any child can choose to attend any school in HISD under this policy of “choice.” The practical reality is that children and parents in northeast Houston are forced into choosing between an “inferior” school around the corner and a “better” school across town. That’s no choice at all. For many students left behind in failing neighborhood schools, that is at best a “sentence.” At worst, HISD is stealing from the poor to give to the rich.


When I spoke recently at the HISD Board meeting, my initial challenge was to make sure HISD knew how upset the community was over the much talked about bond proposal. As I sat listening and watching in that meeting, it occurred to me, however, that the bond proposal — at least related to students in northeast Houston — was really the extension of an HISD attitude toward northeast Houston. The proof is everywhere, and you don’t need an expert to uncover this fact.

Take, for example, Atherton Elementary School. For more than 12 years, Atherton’s principal has been pleading with HISD to improve the program at this school. Place a magnet program at Atherton, or something or anything, but don’t just force the students who can to search for a better education across town. A lack of money or other resources, we were told, muted such cries, and Atherton and many other HISD schools in northeast Houston were consistently overlooked.

Now let’s turn to HISD’ new bond proposal. No one in northeast Houston asked for it, but HISD now wants to jettison the Contemporary Learning Center (CLC) from its address on Cleburne Street in the Third Ward to E.O. Smith Education Center and a Lyons Avenue address in the Fifth Ward. I have nothing against the students who attend CLC, but when my sister was the vice principal at CLC, even the students referred to CLC as an acronym for “Criminals’ Last Chance.”

The point is, when northeast Houston parents and students beg for better programs in their neighborhood schools, HISD turns a deaf ear. But when it comes to “less than quality” education programs, HISD thinks northeast Houston simply can’t get enough. Transferring CLC to E.O. Smith is an insult to everyone in northeast Houston. Sadly — but truthfully — it’s reflective of HISD’s attitude toward northeast Houston.

So there you have it.

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