Friday, September 23, 2011

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of exposing the waste taxpayers bear in paying for the Harris County Department of Education we focused on the fact it is OBSOLETE.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.


concerned said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
concerned said...

You need to do a little research on what ECI is. To say that the families who utilize their services can go to Texas Childrens or the other private clinics you listed there and get the same thing is ludicrous.

Differences between Private and ECI.
1. Private clinics are not encompassed of therapists and teachers who specialize in the under three population. They treat all age groups and I'm sorry, but working with a child under three is very different and takes a different set of skills than you typically find in the private sector. When was the last time you tried to get a 2 year old to perform on command? I challenge you to go online and find any specific therapy strategies, treatment plans/materials, or protocols that are directed at children under 3. You won't find many because there aren't many therapists who know what to do with the babies under three. Those that do are too busy doing it, with their average caseload of 30, to write about it.
2. ECI bills private insurance and medicaid to help support their program but if they are not able to bill these entities, they do not turn the family away like the private sector would. Instead, the families pay a modest cost share from $10 a month to $175 a month based on their income. I challenge you to find a private company that will give these babies the help they need at a price the family can afford. Even if the insurance will pay, it is $50 every time they walk through the door of the clinic. If their insurance pays and they are seeing someone 2-3 times a week, that is $600 a month out of pocket. If their insurance doesn't pay, it is $150+/hr.
3. ECI providers give many services other than just therapy for the child. They are trained service coordinators who help the families navigate the confusing medical professions/specialties and diagnoses they are JUST getting for their babies. Later, when they are closer to three, they get help transitioning to the ISD and learning to navigate the maze of special education.

In the last year, the number of children who are being served by ECI programs across the state has been cut nearly in half. Why the drop??? Because the state legislature cut funding for ECI significantly in September, 2011. In an effort to cut the funds the programs would need to remain viable, the state office raised the criteria for qualifying. Fewer kids, less money. Problem with that is, now instead of a 2.5 year old needing a 4 month delay, they need a 25% delay which amounts to about 8 months. ECI is turning away kids on a weekly basis who at only 2.5 years of life are behind half a year already. If they have a 7 month delay, they don't qualify for services. Some of those kids will be lucky enough to have parents who can afford the $600-$1800 a month it will take for private therapy. The ones that aren't that lucky will be flooding the already struggling school districts in about 2.5 years having had no intervention.

These children that still need help, but don't qualify, belong to parents who have 2 income households, pay their mortgage, pay taxes and contribute to our economy but can't provide their child the help they need.

This is what your tax dollars are going to. I don't know, I think it is worth a few dollars a year to help them, do you????

I am all for cutting government waste but I think you should research your topic a little better before you start pushing to cut funds and services to people. Talk about buildings that are sitting empty costing us millions and leave the babies that need help now, so they can succeed later in life, alone.

concerned said...

One more difference. How many of the private clinics will go work with the preschool teachers so the child doesn't get kicked out of their 5th preschool causing the parent to give up and quit their job because there is not childcare available to them.
Oh, and by the way. The other 7 locations that provide the ECI services in Harris County area are funded to serve specific zip codes that do not include the ones that hcde serves. 10 years ago Klein ISD was the entity that held the grant. When they said they no longer wanted to support those services for children outside their school district, HCDE stepped up and agreed to take the grant and continue the services for all the children in the 13 school districts that were being served. Like I said, do your research.

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