Key Agenda Items
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge for the district in terms of student safety and learning. The Board must continue to address the effects of the pandemic, while still continuing regular district operations. Houston GPS would like to highlight the following areas of concern:
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent interruptions to HISD’s normal learning schedule exacerbated inequities amongst students. Many students struggled with remote learning, with 51% of students failing at least one class in the fall 2020 semester. Data quality concerns persisted during the 2020-2021 school year, making it difficult for the district to accurately monitor student outcomes. Now two years later, with ESSER funding expanding the possibilities for addressing learning loss and inequity, the Board and the district must continue to monitor and focus on student outcomes and innovative ways to support students. The district has release a new dashboard for the public to monitor ESSER spending. As the Board nears the end of their budget process for next year, the Board should continue to focus on closing gaps that have only been widened by the inequity of the pandemic by carefully using the limited resources at its disposal and capitolizing on the one-time ESSER allocations.
- In June 2020, the Board made a commitment to examine the role of police in the district to confront systemic racism and police violence against people of color. Considering the disproportionate discipline and forced interaction with police that students of color, especially black boys, face in public education, this is a pressing equity concern. In December 2020, Board members expressed interest in having a second workshop on the topic and planned to organize the workshop for January or February 2021. The Board’s committee has been disbanded and some trustees have indicated that changes were made to police procedure. The police policy manual is now available online for the public to review, however, several trustees still have questions about the changes that were made. In September 2021, the Board publicly agreed to have another meeting focused on this issue. This meeting still has not been publicly posted.
In the past, the Board has faced last-minute changes to the district budget and budget approval votes that cut close to the deadline for the district. Over the last two years, the Board was able to pass a budget without delaying until the end of June, but the district has passed a deficit budget in at least the last five years, often subject to delays. Considering the district is planning to make substantial changes to accommodate the new strategic plan, careful budget planning is necessary. The Board and Administration have been engaged in the public budget process for six budget workshops. To see the proposed budget and updates, take a look at the District’s budget page. The Board must collaborate to ensure the budget is passed within a reasonable timeframe, not subject to late amendments, and fiscally sound, which means addressing any concerns with administration long before the deadline at the end of June. Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of ESSER funding, the Board and administration must now also be thinking about how to maintain the new programs and funding for student support when resources are no longer available. To see our past budget recommendations, visit our blog.