Parents And Teachers Appeal To Houston Voters To Approve School Bond Issue

Parents and school officials are working to rally support for a bond issue that would raise funds to revamp some of Houston's crumbling high schools. Officials say the improvements are desperately needed, but it remains to be seen if voters are willing to pay more taxes.

When you drive by Westbury High School in southwest Houston, you see what appears to be a sprawling school building. But look behind those buildings and you see something different.

There are 22 portable classrooms that house Westbury's 9th grade students. Westbury High Principal Andrew Wainwright says they use one of those buildings as a weight room and the floor is about to fall through.

"I always turn on a TV or computer in my office, and if we've got any type of tornado or anything like that nearby, within five or six miles, I have to move them. I have to move them, and if it's raining, lightning, I have to move them into the auditorium where I know there's going to be safe, because I don't want them to be in that temporary building if there is severe weather."

Westbury has about 2,200 students. It's one of the campuses set to benefit from a nearly $2 billion dollar bond issue that goes before Houston voters this November. Some of the revenues would go toward a partial rebuild of the Westbury campus. Thirty-seven other schools will also see construction, and that includes new campuses for 20 high schools.

HISD Superintendant Terry Grier says the average age of Houston's high schools is over 50 years old.  That's five years older than the national average and 25 years older than the Harris County average.

"The foundations are sinking. You can stand on the inside and look and see the outside, and you're not looking through the windows either. The technology we have is substandard. Science labs are almost nonexistent in some of these schools."

If the bond issue is approved, HISD says it will gradually phase in a property tax increase. Officials say the tax hike would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $90 a year.

Spearheading an effort to get the bond issue passed are Bobby and Phoebe Tudor, whose daughters attended Lamar High School.

"They just liked the excitement. They liked the diversity. They liked having a lot going on in their high school."

And Bobby Tudor says his daughters' experiences in HISD prepared them well for college.

"We feel that if our public schools can compete with the very best private schools in Houston, that's really the standard we should be striving toward."  

Houston voters last approved a schools bond issue in 2007.  That issue passed by a narrow margin, about 2,000 votes, following strong opposition from black community leaders. They said the issue went on the ballot without significant public input.

Recent polls show support for the latest bond issue, but voters also say they're concerned about approving the measure in light of falling student enrollment.

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...