Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, relying on a public presentation given Thursday by Houston ISD, stated that 150 district schools would see major changes by 2030. HISD officials clarified Friday that the campuses will undergo changes by 2025.
Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles unveiled a dramatically expanded plan for the district this week, announcing 150 schools will see “wholesale systemic reform” by 2025.
The scope of Miles’ plan is much larger than the one he shared at the beginning of the month, when Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath appointed him and nine new school board members to lead HISD as part of sweeping sanctions against the district. Miles initially said he will begin with major changes to 28 campuses this upcoming school year, nearly all of which are located on the city’s largely lower-income northeast side.
Miles’ plans for the 150 schools, equal to slightly more than half of HISD’s campuses, largely mirror those outlined in recent weeks for the 28 campuses. They include significantly raising teacher pay, restructuring the responsibilities of teachers to give them more time to focus on classroom instruction, and standardizing lesson plans and curricula. The campuses would see additional staff dedicated to more routine tasks, such as making copies and grading papers.
Principals, meanwhile, would be expected to spend more time in classrooms coaching teachers. Miles compared principals to football coaches, saying coaches don’t show up to practice every few weeks, but rather they’re constantly on the field giving instruction.
Miles also said he wants to decrease the number of students in pre-kindergarten classrooms to 15, beginning with the 28 schools and HISD’s eight early childhood centers.
HISD officials said Friday that they plan to institute the changes at about 50 schools ahead of the 2024-25 school year, with another 70 campuses brought into the fold for the 2025-26 school year. The district has not specified which campuses would be included in the 150 schools beyond the 28 already announced.
Many community leaders, union officials and HISD families have opposed Miles’ proposals to date, arguing his system will place an overemphasis on standardized testing and cause unnecessary instability in the district.
Community members present showed their disapproval as Miles gave his presentation, heckling the former Dallas Independent School District superintendent as he presented his new “HISD vision.” Others, in a form of silent protest, held up bright red sheets of paper with an image of a thumb pointing down.
A less-vocal contingent, including four of HISD’s nine recently deposed elected trustees, has called for the community to give Miles’ plans a chance. The newly appointed board members, who also voted during a meeting Thursday to approve HISD’s $2.1 billion budget for 2023-24, have backed Miles in limited comments to date about his proposals.
Miles directly addressed board members ahead of unveiling his plans, urging them to show courage in pursuing the overhaul amid pushback from community members. He argued that HISD’s academic achievement, student growth and performance gaps between demographic groups are unacceptable.
“It’s going to be a years-long process, guys. The reason why districts have not done what we’re going to do is because of this,” Miles said, gesturing to the opposition voiced by members of the crowd attending Thursday’s board meeting.
Tia James Glenn, the mother of a student who finished pre-kindergarten this year at Fonwood Early Childhood Center, demanded during the board’s public comment period that the district wait to make decisions until after HISD leaders have consulted with the community.
Glenn said she wants to know which 150 schools will be reformed and what the criteria are.
“It’s like he’s dangling a carrot in front of us,” she said. “What makes him the law?”
Miles did not detail how he would pay for higher salaries and new positions, which could total hundreds of millions of dollars annually. He said teachers in the schools seeing wholesale changes, labeled as part of his “New Education System,” or NES, could eventually see average salaries of $90,000. First-year teachers were slated to earn $61,500 last school year, while those with 15 years of experience were expected to make $70,000, according to HISD’s salary schedule.
The superintendent said HISD can significantly boost teacher pay “if we work much more efficiently,” though he didn’t outline where the district is inefficient.
However, Miles did confirm earlier this month that he’s planning to reallocate $106.7 million budgeted by former HISD Superintendent Millard House II to fund his “Destination 2035” plan, which includes reshaping the 28 NES campuses.
Miles said he will pay for the added costs of the NES by slashing $50 million in vendor contracts; trimming $30 million from the central office, primarily through job cuts; and eliminating $25 million worth of positions supported by federal pandemic relief funds, which are expected to run out in September 2024. He said well-performing schools will keep the resources they currently have.
“I hope you can see already that NES isn’t about taking away,” Miles said. “NES is about getting more, and then we’re going to do as many of the schools as we can.”
The district’s newly appointed board did not offer extensive comments about the plan during Thursday’s meeting. In a brief remark, Board President Audrey Momanaee told Miles that “I appreciate the bold nature of this plan.”
HISD board members still must approve some district policy changes to clear the way for Miles’ plans. They took an initial step in that direction Thursday, temporarily suspending policies related to magnet schools and staff evaluations.
The board also unanimously supported passing the district’s $2.1 billion budget for the upcoming school year — its first major vote since taking power earlier this month.
Votes to approve HISD’s budget have been contentious affairs in recent years, with superintendents claiming the district can’t afford new spending and trustees pushing for larger staff pay raises and increased spending on district programs. This year, the budget received approval after one board member asked questions.
The budget passed Thursday outlines broad plans for spending across the district and doesn’t dive too deep into the superintendent’s proposals — which is customary for Texas school districts. Board members can amend the budget at any point as Miles implements his plans for the district.
Under state law, HISD must approve a budget by June 30. At a June 15 workshop — which was marred by public backlash over an arrangement that limited public access to the boardroom — Miles acknowledged the budget is similar to that of the previous administration.