Federal Spending Cuts To Impact Summer School, Special Education At HISD

Today marks the deadline for automatic spending cuts by the federal government, the so-called "sequester." The Obama Administration estimates Texas would lose nearly $68 million for education. So what does that mean for the Houston Independent School District?

Like other school districts in Texas Houston ISD receives federal money for low-income students and special education.

They’re called Title One and IDEA funds.

Those are the types of education programs that would get cut if lawmakers in Washington don’t reach a compromise and the so-called “sequester” kicks in.

“If it were to happen, we would be faced with making some tough decisions.”

Jason Spencer is with HISD.

“On an annual basis HISD stands to lose an estimated $12.4 million dollars from entitlement grants.”

He says those cuts would hurt kids who need extra help.

“These are grants that cover summer school. These are grants that also pay a very large portion of our special education programs to the tune of about $3 million dollars a year. So really our most at-risk students would be suffering the most if this were to happen.”

Spencer says the district doesn’t have many options to make up for the spending cuts.

“So if we were to lose that funding, we would have to figure out a way to take the money from another program in order to make up the difference, or significantly reduce the amount of summer school offerings we have. Neither one is a particularly palatable option.

The automatic spending cuts would take effect next school year.

They would make it even harder for HISD to balance the budget.

Already the board faces a $72 million dollar shortfall and is considering a tax hike.

 

 

Disability Rights Texas examined state data from the 2011-12 school year. The advocacy group looked at school districts that enroll more than 1,000 special education students. They analyzed which districts exclude special education students from general education classrooms at a higher rate than the statewide average. Under federal law, students with disabilities are required to be taught in the least restrictive environment. That means, as much as possible, special ed students are supposed to be educated with children who are not disabled.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...