The needs are great in Houston ISD and now the budget is, too. The Houston Chronicle obtained and shared a 54-slide powerpoint last week that new HISD Superintendent Millard House II sent in an email addressed to “Team HISD.”

The document outlined how HISD plans to spend the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding (ESSER) it was granted in December 2020 and March 2021 and applied to receive this month. The amount of the ESSER II and ESSER III funds is about $1.2 billion.

There are 11 commitment categories that HISD has listed as priorities in coming years: Reading, Math, plus College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) Supports; Tutoring and Interventions; Wraparound and SEL Supports; Special Education Supports; Out of School Programming; English Learner Supports; Engagement, Enrollment, Attendance; Technology and Digital Resources; COVID Safety and Cleaning; Increased Fine Arts Supports; and Human Capital and Compensation.

Eighty percent of the total funds are intended to address learning loss.

For recruitment and retention, HISD is allocating the largest portion of its funds, $135.91 million, for a yearly $2,500 recruitment/retention stipend for teachers and other staff on the teacher pay table which would be paid out in two installments at the end of each semester as well as a $500 retention stipend paid annually in September to all returning employees.

HISD intends to spend $127.84 million on curriculum resources, online and tactile materials, as well as professional development for teachers in reading, mathematics, science and social studies.

According to the HISD powerpoint, the 2020-21 school year ended with 50 percent of HISD students learning remotely and that gaps in teaching and learning emerged as the year progressed. These gaps were reflected in students’ grades as well as their performance on the STAAR tests.

Student intervention help is the next highest spend at $113.33 million. The powerpoint notes that students have experienced significant learning loss due to limited opportunities for face-to-face instruction. For instance, a third-grade student in 2021-22 might have last been on a campus when they were in first grade.

HISD estimates more than 41,000 students need support for interventions in reading, math and behavior.

A $49.76 million spend is planned for special education. HISD said it supports more than 16,000 students with special needs and the effects of COVID-19 compounded the learning loss for these students. More teachers, professional development and acquisition of an online behavior support platform to be used by all staff that support students with special behavior needs are part of the plan.

Plans to help English language learners will cost $29.62 million. The powerpoint said 33 percent of the district's total student population are English language learners, and 53 percent of those are long-term learners. Early in the spring semester of 2021, 46 percent of these learners were learning remotely.

With the money, all elementary campuses will have access and professional development for a Spanish language intervention program for students with dyslexia in grades PK-2. There will also be additional third-party, English language tutors for priority campuses with English language learners as well as a $1,500 recruitment and retention stipend for ESL teachers.

Fine arts is to get $42.18 million in funding. This will be spent on fine arts enrichment programs and in-house residencies at high-need elementary and middle school campuses. Funding for materials, equipment and supplies as well as funding to clean, replace and repair music instruments for existing HISD music programs are also included. A fine arts teacher will be hired at the 16 identified elementary campuses that don’t currently have one.

After-school programs will get $75.85 million in funds and $19.95 million is allocated to additional academic supports. Support services in order to navigate College, Career, & Military Readiness will receive $53.20 million in funds.

Social & Emotional Learning, Counseling and Student Assistance will get $59.93 million to increase the number of counselors and mental health professionals at campuses and expand student support services. Wraparound services for underserved communities will get $61.62 million.

A plan to boost academic supports at home, and increased engagement between campuses and families will cost $13.38 million, and $16.16 million is being allocated to student engagement. About $80 million will be spent on technology initiatives and facilities upgrades will cost $34 million.

The powerpoint closes with a $250.22 million designation for other district monies, including ADA Hold Harmless, which is when a district’s state allocation remains the same even if there is a drop in student enrollment. The powerpoint noted that during the planning process, the Texas Education Agency required HISD to set aside funds for ADA Hold Harmless, but that funds could be reinstated pending TEA's final decision.

A portion of the funds are also meant to recover HISD’s organization-wide administrative costs of managing federal grants, such as costs related to accounting, budgeting, purchasing, auditing and payroll processing.

The deadline for school districts to submit plans to the TEA for spending the federal funding is July 27.

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