Empty shelves and a scarce book selection at some of the schools in Houston’s poorest neighborhoods have parents calling for change.
A concerned parent recently took several photos of the library at Cullen Middle School in hopes of getting something done about it.
“When you go to some of the more affluent schools in the more affluent neighborhoods, you don’t see this problem. You see the problem in the black neighborhoods or the Hispanic neighborhoods,” said parent and community activist Gerry Monroe. “I understand the district is in a budgetary crunch, but at the end of the day we still have kids that report to that school every day.”
KHOU 11 News began asking Houston Independent School district questions on Sunday.
The district released the following statement on Monday:
All HISD middle schools recently were equipped with classroom libraries to provide more access to literary resources thanks to Literacy in the Middle, a district wide initiative that aims to increase literacy among middle school students. HISD administrators are aware that some middle schools still need books to supplement their school libraries and are searching for ways to meet that need despite significant financial challenges resulting from the state’s school finance system.
Trustee Jolanda Jones was just made aware of the issue this afternoon and immediately began investigating with the hopes of being a part of the solution.
“Literacy is an issue I’m incredibly passionate about, and now that I have been made aware of this I’m going to work with HISD administration to fix it! I also want to thank Gerry Monroe for bringing this matter to my attention,” said Trustee Jones.”
However, Jolanda Jones and concerned parents told KHOU 11 News that the photos sent by Monroe portray the school’s main library and that the issue is not limited to middle schools. They said the issue exists at several schools in the community, including Yates High School.
Jones, who’s the HISD Trustee for District 4, said a measure on the ballot could make it even worse for schools already hurting.
She spent Monday pleading with voters to vote against Proposition 1, commonly referred to as the “Robin Hood” school funding law. It would require HISD to send $162 million tax dollars to the state
“If that happens we are going to have to close schools, layoff teachers, close programs like college counseling and mental health services,” explained Jolanda Jones.”It you’re for us raising your taxes and closing our schools then vote for it.”
However, if voters strike down Proposition 1, the Texas Education Agency will detach commercial property from HISD and reassign it to the tax rolls of other districts.
Proponents of Prop 1 believe that would make it harder for HISD to pay back debt and could mean higher taxes for homeowners.
Cullen Middle School is currently working on a donation webpage for those interested in donating money to help purchase additional books for the school’s library. For more information or to donate, call the school office at 713-746-8180. A link to the donation webpage also will be available on the school’s website on Nov. 3, 2016.