Today, a seminal decision has been put before our district and its trustees.
That decision is whether it accepts private donations for specific school construction projects—and to complicate matters—whether to begin authorizing renaming schools for its benefactors.
At first glance, it might seem as though this private investment is a god send to a district in need, and furthermore a donation of such magnitude might be received as a commendation of the fine work a school is doing in our community. And these things would be true.
However, our school board and new superintendent have spent a great deal of time recently talking about and making commitments to bringing equity to HISD schools—delivering on the promise of a quality public education for all children regardless of where they come from or what challenges they face.
I ask would ask those leaders… What will taking private donations do for that promise of equity?
If we accept money dedicated to supporting just a small portion of students because a donor believes in that school’s particular mission or they are pleased with one school’s particular successes, on what trajectory does that put this district?
If trustees accept this money, the district establishes two new precedents in our district…
- That Houston ISD is willing to trade the name of our schools for money, and
- That Houston ISD will accept an increase in disparity among our students as long as that disparity is paid for privately.
What do these things say about us?
What do they teach our students?
If we sell naming rights, what will be the limits on those names? Are will willing to trade name of our schools for corporate sponsorships? Proponents of accepting these funds point to colleges and universities. They, too, accept corporate sponsorships. Will we? If not, and we only accept funds from non-profit organizations with like minded values, what will the district do if those values change over time?
Furthermore, let’s say for a moment, this board is okay with exchanging school names for money. The more important question is about equity.
I would argue inequity among students is wrong by any means, and Houston ISD is already failing on its promise of equity in many ways today.
Why would you provide yet another mechanism that increases disparities among our children? Why would we find new ways to divide our students into the special and the regular — the lucky and the not?
I ask you… Will opening up the HISD’s doors to private investment correct or create inequity among our children?