Friday, November 4, 2011

#8 HCDE – No 2011 Tax Hike

Harris County Department of Education tried to raise our taxes and FAILED - thanks to patriot citizens who took the time to show up and speak out at the board meeting Oct. 18, 2011. The next election we will remember the:

Board members who voted to RAISE our taxes:

President, Angie Chesnut
Jim Henley
Debra Kerner

And the Board members who voted NO:

Louis Evans
Roy Morales
Marvin Morris
Michael Wolfe
View vote (44:45)


I can't even count the number of school board meetings I  attended over my thirty year teaching career. Some got really long and boring.  But, at least they were all professionally run.

Attending this HCDE "Tax Rate Workshop" and the following board meeting was a totally different story. It was more like watching a three ring circus.

 ring1                                                           HCDE Board Fights Off Tax Payers
In Ring #1

The HCDE  board must not be used to any citizens showing up to offer comments the board might not like. Even though board policy reads:

"Time is specifically set aside at regular Board meetings for patrons to address the BoardA citizen who wishes to speak may do so by completing a Participation Request Card at least 30 minutes prior to a regular Board meeting.  Participation Request Cards will be available at the Board meeting. Citizens may address the Board on either agenda or nonagenda items.Public participation is limited to the designated open forum portion of a meeting. Presentations by individuals or by groups speaking on one item shall not exceed five minutes. At all other times during Board meetings, the audience shall not enter into discussion or debate on matters being considered by the Board.Groups of more than three persons wishing to speak on one item shall appoint one person to represent the group’s views to the Board. The speaker shall identify his or her affiliation, make a presentation, not to exceed five minutes and identify the remedy sought, if any"

 View the video

the board president took it upon herself to conclude that all citizens who wrote similar reasons to speak on their Participation Request Cards were from the same "group" and needed to elect a spokesperson. (0:29) She even grouped the person speaking in favor of a tax rate increase with those opposed. She told all persons completing a card to go out in the hall and select one person who would speak for all. So six of us were in the hall introducing ourselves to one another when other citizens told us to come back to the meeting.

The board then decided to debate if all citizens should be able to speak. They finally decided we all could speak but limited us to 3 minutes each instead of the 5 minutes listed in their own policy.(0:30-17:00) They said it was to save time, but they wasted 17 minutes debating if 6 citizens should be able to speak and it only took 19  minutes for all 8 who showed up to address the board.

Then they allowed only 3 minutes for the Harris County Tax Assessor. I am still shocked that the Superintendent admitted that he had never even met the man in charge of collecting the HCDE property taxes. In a truly professional setting, he would have been consulted by the administration long before the final vote on a tax rate increase.(36:22)

 ring2                                                                   Tax Hike? What Tax Hike?
In Ring #2  

The Superintendent and board members were arguing that no "TAX HIKE" was on the agenda even though item #20 read:(3:00)

20. Consider approval of a proposed tax rate of $0.006804, the Effective Tax Rate for FY2011- 12
        *Our current rate is $0.00658

The Superintendent insisted that property values were down in the county so HCDE needed to raise the Tax Rate to collect the same amount of revenue from local tax payers as they did the previous year. In his words, RAISING THE TAX RATE was NOT A TAX INCREASE because HCDE would be collecting the same total amount as the previous year.(34:40-35:17) He argued that some taxpayers would be paying more, but some would be paying less, so we could not call it a TAX INCREASE. I know it sounds like I must have misunderstood, but watch the video yourself. It is incredible that we have been paying this man over $220,000 a year in salary and benefits and this is the garbage he is feeding the tax payers. What is truly remarkable, is that members of the board act like he makes sense. Either we have elected some really stupid people to this board, or they attended the Huey Long School of Ethics.

Even after our own Harris County Tax Assessor, Don Sumners  (who took the initiative to show up at the meeting because he read about it in the Houston Chronicle)  spoke on the fact that HCDE was NOT projected to collect less revenue than the previous year (36:22), the Superintendent just dismissed him like Mr. Sumners had no idea what he was talking about saying, "I don't think Mr. Sumners assumptions are good. I think ours are good." (23:05) The Board President, Angie Chesnut, questioned why Mr. Sumners even showed up (31:30-33:11), and Board Member Debra Kerner treated him with total disrespect.(24:30-25:20)

But I thought the funniest part occurred after the meeting. While the Superintendent and the board argued to the citizens that the TAX RATE INCREASE was NOT a TAX INCREASE, the  HCDE Communications Department must have not been paying attention. They issued a press release after the meeting that said :

Harris County Department of Education board says no to 2011 tax hike

Trustees cite need to support citizens during troubled economy

Harris County Department of Education board of trustees voted against a tax hike for the 2011-2012 school year budget at its October 18 Board meeting, citing the need to support Harris County citizens living with a troubled economy.

The current tax rate charges the average homeowner about $6.25 yearly for HCDE taxes based on a $100,000 home valuation. 

“We respect the fact that citizens are hurting this year,” said HCDE board of trustees president Angie Chesnut. “We will find the means to make this budget work for our students and for the Harris County school districts we serve on a daily basis.”

“In these challenging financial times which have put such a huge burden on schools, our services allow school districts to deliver student needs at lower costs,” said Chesnut. “For example, school districts contract with HCDE for special education therapy services. HCDE hires a special education therapist who serves several districts. The districts don’t each have to hire a therapist to serve what may be only a few students. We call that leveraging dollars for the districts—and it saves local school districts money.”

But, if you watch the video, you know that the quote in the press release from the Board President, who voted FOR a tax rate increase is bogus. If we had not been there, they would have voted to increase the tax rate.
What really happened was the citizens spoke out and scared the living daylights out of HCDE. They knew if they passed a TAX HIKE, citizens who are now awake and paying attention to their government, would start insisting that HCDE lose its taxing authority and be shut down once and for all.
Then the highly paid administrators would have to find real jobs and actually work for a living and the board members would have to find another elected board to launch their political careers - and it might be one that required some real effort.

ring3                                           Take Out Those Right Wing Radicals. 

In Ring #3

Those in the audience were introduced to the HCDE method of school board budgeting. I am calling it “Effective Budgeting.” It goes something like this:

  • The employees list their salaries, benefits, expenses and everything they want to buy
  • The Superintendent adds it all up and gets a grand total he calls his "budget"
  • Then Business Services figures out how much  to tax the citizens to collect enough money to cover the "budget".(0:25)   (5:53) They call that the "Effective Tax Rate"(9:40-11:00)
  • Then the board approves the rate and the citizens are forced to pay up.
  • Anyone who questions the method is told they either hate children, are obsessed with greed, are misinformed or just plain ignorant.

    The Superintendent and some board members kept arguing that HCDE would suffer great hardships without a tax rate increase even though HCDE's own budget reports show a steady annual increase in revenue collected from local tax payers for the past ten years.

Fiscal Year Tax Amount Collected
2010 $16,782,324
2009   16,249,697
2008   14,914,363
2007   14,334,642
2006   13,128,898
2005   11,994,381
2004   11,568,891
2003   10,989,443
2002   10,495,004

                                               Table #7

The Superintendent and some board members told all sorts of sob stories about the horrible consequences that would be suffered if they didn't get more money.I should have brought a box of Kleenex. It felt like Vice President Biden was in the room with us. If HCDE didn’t get a tax rate increase, all the handicapped kids in Harris County would be out on the street, involved  crime; basically it would be the end of the world as we know it. But if some tax payers just pay a little more of their fair share, all will be saved!!!!

Some even spoke negatively about those citizens who questioned the need for a tax rate increase. About those evil people who just don’t understand that HCDE uses their money so wisely that they should all be lining up to give them more money. And they should be thanking HCDE for all the work they do that no one else will do. Because they are the ONLY people in Harris County that help handicapped kids! (Well, that will be my next article.)

Some of their comments made during the meeting are below. You can view all three

               Tax Workshop        Board Meeting Part 1     Part 2

Or select the link for each comment and scroll to the minute listed to hear the exact quote.

sawyer Comments by: HCDE Superintendent, John E Sawyer, Ed D

  Effective tax rate increase is NOT a tax increase. (8:20
We should be the "poster child" for tax entities. (12:55
I don't knowingly mislead my board.(22:53)
  I suggest the new tax rate. (39:50)

  I have never met Don Sumners.(Harris County Tax Assessor) (22:45)

  Our Texas foundation school money is only about $200,000 a year
  and just offsets our certified teachers' insurance. (
Our students are too young or too old for public schools.Public schools don't want them(15:05 

  I don't think Mr. Sumners assumptions are good. I think ours are good.(23:05
  Some of our initiatives bring in more money than we spend, but that is not a profit.(



chesnut3Comments by: Board President, Angie Chesnut

We have not discussed what HCDE does. Several of you who are  here today  may not have looked into the services we provide to save your school districts money…We leverage dollars… who will do the job if we don’t?(10:30)

rmoralesComments by: Board Member, Roy Morales

We are taking a huge risk here. Even at the Effective tax rate. It is NOT an increase in property taxes… SHAME ON the people who say that… (7:15)

We are losing sight of THAT CHILD THAT HAS SPECIAL NEEDS. A CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME  or other defectiveness that we are here to help. I hear people complaining about zero increase in their property taxes … or help that child get back into the mainstream. We are losing sight of those kids who really need help. (9:50)

If we get hit by a hurricane, we are in trouble. (23:59)




kerner Comments by: Board Member, Debra Kerner

What does the average tax payer pay? $10 per year. We are talking about VERY, VERY, VERY little amount of money. Less than $10 a year…So for $11 a year everyone is assuming we are costing them an arm and a leg.(9:05)

If not for our Highpoint Schools, expelled students would be out on the street in a revolving door. Judges came up with the idea of Highpoint Schools so we could help them become productive members of society. (9:40)

We don’t have a budget cushion. (25:30)

We have already cut; laid people off; cut birth to 3 years program; effective services for children. WE ARE HERE FOR THE CHILDREN! We have cut Head Start programs. (40:30)


henleyComments by: Board Member, Jim Henley

We have listened to a lot misinformation today. People who do not have the facts or who skew the facts on this organization… Bottom line is the average house MIGHT pay $0.36 more this year. The reaction by what we have seen this morning, is not really meant for this department, it is meant to strike fear in the heart of every person who is elected… even if only $0.36 a year is on the line, you had better well know that you are going to stand for RETRIBUTION FROM THIS GROUP OF PEOPLE. Someone has said here that we are going against the grain … I want to go against the grain. I want to rehire teachers, I want to reduce class sizes and give a quality education to our students and I want to go against the grain of all that has been happening the tune of $0.36.(29.42)



mmorris Comments by: Board Member, Marvin Morris

Taking a spanking from people who really don’t have information...(34:30)




You too can have the pleasure of attending an entertaining HCDE Board Meeting. You can see for yourself exactly what is going on with your tax dollars and just how your money has been spent. Remember, you paid  for the building, parking garage, security, utilities, technology, salaries of everyone in the building, food and beverages served to the administration and board members, etc. I personally feel the flat screen TV monitor over the elevator is such a nice touch. Such an excellent way to save tax payer money. All the ipads you see the employees playing on when the meeting gets dull, well, you paid for those, too – and all their software downloads.

So come join me the third Tuesday of each month. Don’t forget, according to their board policy,you have the right to address the board - unless, of course, they change their minds again.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011

HCDE Board Room  1:00pm

6300 Irvington   77022

Monday, October 17, 2011

#7 HCDE is meeting to raise our taxes!

Warning all Harris County taxpayers:
Harris County Department of Education is trying to raise our taxes. They:
(1) posted notice of a  meeting to be held this Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 at 11:30am entitled: "WORKSHOP ON THE EFFECTIVE TAX RATE FOR HCDE."
(2) posted monthly board meeting agenda held at 1:00pm the same day. Item #20 reads:
20. Consider approval of a proposed tax rate of $0.006804, the Effective Tax Rate for 
Our current rate is $0.006581. Their superintendent has been pushing for a tax increase because he insists they need more of our money. His own $188,000 salary provided by taxpayer funds must be causing him to feel great pain in this economy. He lost a vote to raise taxes at their meeting last month when two fiscally liberal board members were absent. But he is bringing it up again this month. 
Meeting will be at :
HCDE Administration
Ronald W. Reagan Building
6300 Irvington Blvd.
Houston, TX 77022
Link to map. 
We need to have a crowd there to let them know we do not want our taxes raised, especially by a school district that has NO students zoned to it anymore.  Their excuse always is that they don't have to tax us very large amounts because they tax everyone in all 26 Harris County School Districts so we should think it is fine for them to keep raising our rates.
Pass this info to all  Harris County  taxpayers.
If you'd like to speak at the board meeting, you must register 30 minutes before (12:30) the meeting. The law does give the public the right to video tape the meeting so bring your phones well charged!!
 The notice is below along with the links to their meeting agenda.
Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Harris County Department of Education will be held on the 18th day of October, 2011 at 11:30 a.m., for the Board to conduct the business of that meeting. The meeting will be held in the Board Room of the Administration Building, 6300 Irvington Boulevard, Houston Texas. Such a meeting is a WORKSHOP ON THE EFFECTIVE TAX RATE FOR HCDE.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HCDE #6 - Double Taxing Since 1911

In previous posts I have written about how the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE), which opened back in 1889, has continued to collect property taxes in Harris County even after all its students moved away from HCDE and into "Independent School Districts." All other counties in Texas except Harris and Dallas  closed their county school boards decades ago.  A reader asked me to find out how long she had been paying taxes to two school districts - paying for two school boards, two highly paid administrations and two district infrastructures. So I did some research.

I have only had time to research 20 of the 24 Harris County Independent School Districts.  So far, it seems that the taxpayers in Waller ISD have been double taxed the longest - an even 100 years!!!!! According to the Waller ISD district site,
1911 - The Waller Independent School District was formed by election (54  votes for, 7 votes against).
La Porte ISD was not far behind. According to Wikipedia,
La Porte Independent School District was formed in 1916
That leaves the taxpayers of La Porte ISD coming in second paying two school district taxes for 95 years!

June 23, 1931
Map of Harris County School Districts
Made for Harris County School Board
 In the county archives you can find a Harris County School Board Trustee's map from 1931 that shows the "Independent School District" boundaries that already existed at that time. It contains an interesting quote:

  NOTICE:"This map is the property of the County School Trustees of Harris County,
 State of Texas, and is not to be copied for any purpose, and is for the exclusive official
 use of members of the board, and is not to be permitted out of their possession."
                                                                                                                     June 23, 1931 

Sounds like the HCDE board members in 1931 were just like ones today - paranoid that that taxpayers would find out how few schools they operated and would complain about paying for two school districts.
 A quick look at the 20 ISD's tells us just how long taxpayers in each district have been double taxed:

                                                                      # of Years ISD
ISD Formed        School District    + HCDE Taxed                 Source_____
1911                  Waller ISD                                  100  years                          Waller ISD site
1916                  La Porte ISD                                95                                     Wikipedia
1917                  Alief ISD                                      94                                     Alief ISD site
1918                  Katy ISD                                      93                                    Wikipedia on KISD
1923                  Houston ISD                               88                                       HCDE site
1923                  Humble ISD                               88                                       Wikipedia on HISD
1930                  Deer Park ISD                            81                                       DPISD site
Pre-1931           Galena Park ISD                       80                                        Map from 1931
Pre-1931           Aldine ISD                                  80                                        MAP from 1931
Pre-1931           Crosby ISD                                 80                                        Map from 1931
Pre-1931           Goose Creek ISD                        80                                        Map from 1931
Pre-1931           Pasadena ISD                             80                                        Map from 1931
Pre-1931           Spring ISD                                  80                                      Map from 1931
1935                  Channelview ISD                      76                                         
1937                  Pearland ISD                              74                                        Wikipedia on PISD
1938                  Klein ISD                                     73                                       KISD site
1939                  Cy-Fair ISD (CSD)                     72                                         CFISD site
1945                  Spring Branch ISD                   66                                          SBISD by phone
1948                  Clear Creek ISD                         63                                        CCISD by phone

1977                  Stafford MSD broke from Houston ISD and Fort Bend ISD to form the
                            only "municipal school district" currently in Texas.

While researching, I found another fact that was interesting . In 1923 it took  a Special Act of the Texas Legislature, for Harris County District 50 to become the Humble Independent School District. "This gave the (independent) school board more authority, and removed many of the rules imposed by the Harris County School Board." I guess even back then the HCDE Board wouldn't listen to the people and the people had to go over their heads to the state legislature to make the changes needed.

It is remarkable to me that in the past 63 years, the people of Harris County have not been able to elect 7 decent, honest people to the HCDE Board at the same time. 7 board members who would move HCDE's programs where they belong -- to non-profits and Texas Educational Service Centers -- and put an end to this century long double tax burden on the people of Harris County.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Obsolete Bureaucracy - Waste In Harris County DOE - Pt 1

The Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Building

This is the first of a 5 part series on the terrible waste Harris County residents endure paying for TWO school systems.  As you will see in these articles, not only is there enormous waste within the Harris County Department of Education, there aren't any students!

Taxpayers in Harris County Should Shut Down HCDE

When you look for “government waste” you don’t have to go all the way to Washington, D.C. Harris County has the mother lode of waste right here in Texas. It is called the “Harris County Department of Education”(HCDE).

I found 5 reasons it should be shut down:
  1. it is obsolete, 
  2. it duplicates services
  3. it is unconstitutional
  4. it operates “for-profit” programs, and, 
  5. it performs poorly.

#1. Obsolete

It all started in 1866 with the Texas Constitution.  Article 7, Section 1 reads, “…it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

At first the Legislature gave county boards authority to operate local public schools, so in 1889 HCDE was formed and served about 900 students in Harris County. Over time, the Legislature allowed “independent school districts” to form if they had 500 students and a tax base. Houston ISD formed in the 1920’s. Across the state, as students moved to independent school districts, the county education boards shut themselves down and handed over their authority, assets and tax base to the new independent districts.

But not HCDE. Even after all their students moved to public schools operated by independent school districts, HCDE’s board did not shut itself down. Their board members were not willing to give up their power and authority to tax. Instead, all these years Harris County taxpayers have had to pay county education taxes as well as their independent school district taxes. They pay for the election of two school boards as well as the salaries and infrastructure of two separate school districts. Even though the HCDE Board knows they are obsolete, they continue to tax and invent reasons why they should still exist. Their employees lobby to keep their cushy jobs and the taxpayers even support an entire “marketing department” to spread the word all over the country about the “great job” HCDE does.

I have always been told…”follow the money”…and that certainly rings true here. HCDE’s own website reads:

“The passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1964 created many federal projects. Programs such as Adult Education, Manpower and Neighborhood Youth Corps became available to districts through HCDE. During this time, HCDE also added a department to serve special education students.…The role of HCDE as an agent of education equalization today is far beyond anything foreseen by the founders in 1889.” 

When HCDE no longer had schools to operate, they attached to federal programs to justify their existence because that is where the big education money flows deep- “Head Start”, “Safe Schools”, “Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)”, etc. Ever wonder how the liberal programs the Feds want to push into conservative places like Texas get in the door? Through organizations like HCDE that use taxpayer money to support liberal programs and organizations. 

The two largest grants (pdf) awarded to HCDE in 09-10 were both from the Feds: Head Start for $12,786,762 and 21st Century CLC (after school programs) for $7,331,250. As a matter of fact, HCDE is so attached to the Feds that President Obama’s Education Czar, Arne Duncan, even visited in person. You just have to read their board meeting minutes to see that HCDE is all about money – contracts, grants, travel and purchases take up most of the agenda. You’ll also notice the lack of discussion about student achievement and curriculum. Awards and commendation are mentioned about employees, but nothing about students. LULAC shows it gratitude for use of HCDE meeting space and the League of Women Voters is commended for its work with HCDE, but there is no mention of student organizations. Discussions are even held on how to spread federal programs and “outreach” to state officials (a nice way to say tax dollars spent to lobby for more liberal programs)

#4 Edward Ybarra with LULAC Council 402 extended his gratitude to the Board and Administration for allowing LULAC the use of HCDE meeting rooms for their meetings throughout the year.
#5FAngie Chesnut reported on Carl Schwartz’s recent hospitalization and welcomed him back..Carl Schwartz reportedon his recent emergency visit to the hospital and reported that he is feeling better.

#5DDebra Kerner reported on her attendance to a governance session of the Head Start Policy Council. Louis Evans reported on his attendance to the October 21, 2010 Lights on Afterschool breakfast and congratulated Doug Kleiner and Lisa Caruthersand other staff for a job well done.
Debra Kerner reported on the staff appreciation luncheon held before the November 16, 2010 Board Meeting and thanked all the staff for their hard work during the gubernatorial debate October 31, 2010.Jim Henley thanked staff for bringing HCDE to the forefront of the community with the gubernatorial debate and the visit from Arne Duncan earlier in the year

#4 Howard Sims, Head Start Policy Council Chairperson, addressed the Board regarding the Head Start Program and spoke on the importance of the program. Mr. Sims thanked the Board for the support it provides to the program.
#5H Debra Kerner thanked HCDE staff for working the gubernatorial debate.
Debra Kerner announced the Civic Leadership Breakfast taking place October 21, 2010.

#2 A detailed recap of the gubernatorial debate hosted by HCDE and the League of Women Voters on October 3, 2010 at HCDE followed and the Board discussed ways to thank the staff who participated in holding the event;
#3. … It was requested that Jimmy Wynn attend the next committee meeting to discuss outreach to state officials…Mr. Evans suggested that in 2011 we plan town hall meetings in each of the Congressional districts to brief the public on the reauthorization of ESEA. Ms.Chesnut suggested that we reach out to the ISD Trustees to develop relationships with them and said she was currently discussing this possibility with Dr. Griffin…

The Texas Legislature has not had the backbone to force HCDE to shut down. In the 1990’s when the Legislature reformed the education code, they left a loophole allowing the two remaining county school boards in Texas to continue collection of a second school district tax and continue operation of their obsolete county districts. So, for over 60 years, Harris and Dallas County residents have carried an extra tax burden that no other counties in the state have had to bear because of the greed and lack of leadership of elected officials.

Continued in Part 2: Duplication.

In Part 5 you can sign the petition to stop this waste.

Duplicate Waste In Harris County DOE - Pt 2

In Part 1 of exposing the waste taxpayers bear in paying for the Harris County Department of Education we focused on the fact it is OBSOLETE.  This is the 2nd of 5 parts.

#2 – Duplication
If you live in Harris County you already know about your local independent school district but it is time to learn about HCDE, the second district you are forced to support with your hard earned tax dollars. The Board consists of seven members whose elections, training, travel, meals, etc. are all paid with tax dollars. 

     Organizational Chart which consists of:
  • Board of Trustees
  • HCDE Attorney
  • Superintendent of Schools
  • Consultant for School Governance
  • 4 x Assistant Superintendents
  • 27 x Various Director/Management Positions

These 41 positions are needed to manage the 1,293 employees and extra contract labor. We don’t know the exact dollar amounts because HCDE salaries are not reported in the same fashion as every other public school district in the state if Texas.(PDFPage 1-4

So how many faculty and staff is that per student?  Great question!!!
According to reports from Texas Education Agency (TEA) – the organization that the Texas Legislature puts in charge of collecting information and data on schools in Texas- HCDE operates 7 schools with a grand total of “0” students. That is right. TEA reports “ZERO” students educated by HCDE.


  District Type                 County                                  Region

  Mailing Address                         Web Address
  HOUSTON, TX 77022-5618

  Phone                     Fax                        District Email
  (713) 694-6300   (713) 696-0730 

  Superintendent                   Enrollment as of Oct 2010
  DR JOHN SAWYER            0

#Enrolled  Campus#   Campus name           Type of instruction

All 7 schools in HCDE are reported by TEA as having “0” students enrolled. (You can search your own results here.)

TEA school report – Line # 3950-3956 shows all HCDE schools active with “0” students enrolled
Not only does HCDE report “0” students enrolled in their schools, HCDE is not reported by TEA Pupil Projection Reports.  But the TEA Payment Ledger show HCDE’s share of the Foundation Allotment from the state in 10-11 alone:
2010-2011 Foundation
District: HARRIS COUNTY DEPT OF ED, 101000
Payment Class: 1


Now how can that be?  No students listed but all that money? It could be because HCDE operates “alternative schools”. Their own description is:
Students served on the ABC campuses have needs that are not met in their home districts for varied reasons. Two Highpoint Schools serve expelled and adjudicated youth in grades six through twelve. All students served in the Academic and Behavior Centers and Highpoint Schools are referred/placed directly from their home districts that have contract agreements with HCDE for these services. The ultimate goal for students served in all our programs is successful reintegration back into their home districts.” 

Either TEA has overlooked HCDE and not made HCDE report their students’ attendance, test scores, drop-out rates, etc. or TEA allows HCDE’s students to be included in their home school’s reports. But if that is the case, how can any district be expected to report a student it had to expel? Something does not add up.

So, if HCDE is a school district whose focus is NOT educating the children inside its district boundaries, just what do they do with the nearly $16,000,000 of local tax dollars they collect each year?

According to HCDE, they provide:
  “…educational resources to school districts and the general public throughout Harris County and beyond.  Services include adult education, programs to promote safe schools, after-school programs, therapy servicesprofessional development for educators, special schools, alternative certification for principals and teachers, and Head Start programs.  We offer purchasing procurement, grant development, program research and evaluation, school finance support and records management.  Since 1889, our services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our education public.  HCDE is dedicated to the equalization of educational opportunity and to the advancement of public schools.  We impact the educational community through visionary leadership, shared resources and innovative programs. “  

That sounds good but just why does Harris County need a separate school district to do this? How do all the other counties in Texas (except Dallas) get by without needing to pay for a separate county department of education?

Simple, they use the Texas Regional Educational Service Center system as well as other organizations that specialize in educational support. TEA has Harris County assigned to the Region 4 Service Center which provides many duplicate services (pdf): Purchasing Cooperatives, Adult Education, Art Staff Development, Central Office Administrators Academy, Bilingual Staff Development, Choice Facilities Partners, Digital LearningEducator Certification, ESL-ISOL, Virtual Instructor’s Academy (VIATx), etc. Around the state other service centers also provide duplicate services to HCDE. Region 10 provides not only Purchasing Cooperatives, but also Fiscal Management Services, School Finance Council Training and Financial Consulting. Region 20 provides Grant Evaluation and SBDM Training.

In a comparison of HCDE to some of its peers, MGT of America found that 26 of the 43 services offered by HCDE were also offered by Region 4 which is also located inside Harris County – a whopping 10.97 miles away from HCDE!

According to MGT of America’s report, others providing duplicate or similar services as HCDE are:
TX Entities SAME As HCDE
Page 3-9;viii;page 3-10;page 2-18 

TEA posts a list of 74 Alternative Schools in Harris County.  If you remove the 7 that are run by HCDE, and you still have 67 alternative schools in Harris County alone. (Pages #118-142)

ECI posts 7 locations besides HCDE in Harris County where their services are provided.

The biggest argument always used to keep HCDE open is the fact that a section of Head Start operates out of the HCDE building. We all know that Head Start is a federal program that operates nationwide. Different groups contract with the Feds to operate the program all around the country. Every normal person can reason that when HCDE shuts its doors, Head Start will still operate the same centers as it does now. All that will change for Head Start in Harris County is the location of this particular office and some of its procedures. Shutting down HCDE will NOT shut down Head Start in Harris County. The director of this Head Start program would be given a time window to update the contract with the Feds and then time to find a new office space. If they can’t figure out how to run it without HCDE, then they can travel all around the state to learn from all those who operate Head Start programs without the benefit of a local taxpayer supported county department of education building.

To quote the Fed’s: “Head Start programs have an indefinite project period. Therefore, once the grant is awarded, the organization will continue as the grantee agency unless they decide they no longer want the grant (relinquishment) or are terminated for cause. In these cases, the funds are still available for the service area and will be awarded through competition.”

Continued in Part 3: It’s Unconstitutional

In Part 5 you can sign the petition to stop this waste.