Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Budget & Finance

To Relieve Crowding, Houston Turns to Private School

By Laura Lang — October 23, 1996 2 min read

About 150 Houston public school students started classes last week at a local private school as part of an effort to relieve overcrowding in the nation’s sixth-largest school system.

The Houston school board approved the one-year contract with the Varnett School in September. The district is currently seeking proposals from other area private schools, a spokeswoman said last week.

Superintendent Rod Paige proposed over the summer the idea of sending some students in the 210,000-student district to private schools at district expense. The idea came in response to the defeat in May of a $390 million bond issue. (“Houston Looks at Private Schools To Ease Overcrowding,” Aug. 7, 1996.)

The bond would have paid for 15 new schools and renovations at 84 existing ones.

Varnett was chosen because it complied with the city’s requirements: that a cooperating private school had to be an accredited, nonsectarian school in the southwest Houston area that had been in operation for a number of years, said its founder, Annette Cluff. The contract includes a clause for an optional second year, she said.

The public school system pays $3,575--90 percent of its per-pupil expenditure--in tuition for each student at Varnett. Ms. Cluff called the yearly figure “comparable” to the school’s basic monthly tuition charge of $330.

The influx of students more than doubled the school’s usual enrollment of 125 students. “The transition has gone very well, surprisingly,” Ms. Cluff said.

Lottery Selection

The school has hired four new teachers to accommodate the incoming students, who ride city school buses to and from school.

“Our biggest hurdle now is assessing the academic level of the students,” Ms. Cluff said.

Teachers and school administrators are using standardized tests and one-on-one activities to place the students at appropriate academic levels.

Students selected to attend the Varnett School were chosen through a lottery, Ms. Cluff said.

The district distributed optional application forms to students in overcrowded classes. Students who applied were then chosen at random from each class, according to the number of available spots in each grade level at Varnett, Ms. Cluff said.

Students with disabilities or those who had attended a private school in the previous year were ineligible, she added.

Under contract provisions, Varnett is required to provide “periodic reports” on the students’ academic progress throughout the year.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 23, 1996 edition of Education Week as To Relieve Crowding, Houston Turns to Private School


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Budget & Finance Tax Higher Incomes to Fund Schools? National Debate Gets Traction at the State Level
Arguments over an Arizona ballot measure mirror calls at the national level to raise taxes for "the 1 percent" to increase education funding.
3 min read
Budget & Finance Lawmakers Push Plan to Protect School Jobs From Pandemic Cuts
The new proposal resembles an education jobs program signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, but it would be much bigger.
4 min read
Budget & Finance Judge Orders Census Bureau to Keep Counting. Here's Why That Matters for Schools
Accurate census data is tied to billions of dollars of federal education aid. A federal judge told officials this week that they can't shorten the timeline for the count.
2 min read
Budget & Finance DeVos: Give Religious Groups Equal Consideration for Education Grants
The new U.S. Department of Education guidance creates a federal process for individuals and organizations to file complaints under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
2 min read