HISD Taxes and Tutoring

The Houston School Board has voted to reduce the school district tax rate,and spend $236 million dollars to repair ageing schools. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains how they plan to do that.

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The board first cut the tax rate 14 cents to $1.48 per hundred of assessed value, as mandated by the legislature in the school finance reform bill it passed earlier this year. Then, the board moved a few cents of the lower tax rate from one side of the ledger to the other to qualify the district for matching state funds for school repairs. HISD spokesman Terry Abbott:

"We'll be able to generate eleven and a half million dollars a year in brand new state revenue. We'll take that money and combine it with some other funds that we have from our reserve accounts, and from a maintenance fund we already had set up, and over a period of six years we'll have about 236 million dollars to spend repairing and renovating schools."

In another development, Abbott says after almost no response when school started, and after a lot of work contacting parents, just under 2000 low income students have signed up for free tutoring.

"We've made telephone calls to parents' houses, we've sent letters, we've held meetings at the schools, we've just done everything that we can do short of promising to name our next child after somebody. And finally folks are coming around. I think it just takes time to get used to a new idea."

Still, these 1900 children are only about 20 percent of the children eligible for tutoring. They're in the 14 HISD schools that are facing sanctions for not making enough annual progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.