From former superintendent Richard Carranza leaving for New York City and leaving the district in flux to budget and performance questions, Houston ISD has been embroiled in tumultuous times almost all year; and one of those issues recently came to a head after public outcry.
At their regular board meeting earlier this month, the Houston ISD Audit Committee recommended an external performance audit be performed — the first such audit approved in more than two decades.
The audit will be conducted in order to ensure the district and its trustees are utilizing resources as efficiently and effectively as possible to inform decision-making and budgeting by the board and administration for the 2019-2020 school year and beyond, and to build public trust by showing good stewardship of public dollars by the district.
“We look forward to having fresh eyes examine how we do business so we can best serve our students even with limited dollars. Every efficiency we can identify will help mitigate the impact of our growing recapture payment. Thanks for the public’s patience while we go through this process,” HISD Board of Education president Rhonda Skillern-Jones said.
The approval for an external audit comes after more than 2,700 people have signed an online petition created at change.org. A group called Supporters of HISD Magnets and Budget Accountability had previously submitted a request for an audit to the Texas Legislative Budget Board, a non-partisan state agency providing fiscal policy and analysis for the Texas Legislature that regularly conducts performance audits for school districts upon request by the district’s school board or by members of the public.
“There really needs to be an audit performed,” a member of the group said following an April board meeting. “The issues are on-going, and the solutions are just temporary.”
According to a release in February, HISD was facing an estimated budget shortfall of more than $200 million for the 2018-2019 school year as the result of recapture and Hurricane Harvey, and the district began layoffs in March.
The last time HISD successfully executed a performance audit was in 1995. A majority of trustees voted against the proposal by then-Trustee Michael Lunceford during an August 2017 meeting to request the LBB to conduct a performance audit; but the tables have turned.
According to the District, the firm selected for the audit will be required to present a full draft to the board no later than April of next year. Trustees will then have until that June to approve a budget based on recommendations from the audit. The cost of the audit is not to exceed $2.5 million.