Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE)?

HCDE is a service provider for educators and students throughout Harris County. It provides critical services under the direction of a seven-member, elected Board of Trustees responsible to the citizens of our nation’s third largest county. HCDE’s broad-based programs, developed in conjunction with 25 school districts, are tailored to meet specific needs that education professionals of these districts have identified as being critical to their success.

How does HCDE help school districts improve?

HCDE is a model organization that leverages 20¢ into $1.00 of services through shared service arrangements, such as cooperative programs, that save school districts extraordinary amounts of their own budget dollars. By offering shared services, HCDE can provide school districts with specific services at a much reduced rate. These savings would not be possible without HCDE’s cooperative programs. For example, HCDE operates special campuses for

  • Alternative education (discipline-related) and
  • Special needs students, particularly those who are autistic or emotionally disturbed.

With the districts’ full support, HCDE provides those in compliance with all laws and professional standards at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost the home district. Services for which the school districts can depend on HCDE to provide include: 

  • Occupational, physical, and music therapy for special education students;
  • Staff development in the broad range of education issues for board members and all educators;
  • Comprehensive after-school programs;
  • Adult education;
  • Program evaluations, needs assessments, and program performance studies;
  • Instructional support services in core subject academic disciplines including bilingual and other special categories;
  • Strategic planning guidance;
  • Business services and related forum;
  • Cooperative purchasing in full compliance with all bidding laws of Texas;
  • Virtual school support;
  • Curriculum development such as science course projects in conjunction with NASA; and
  • Personnel utilization reviews.

Do school districts pay the full cost of services provided by HCDE?

HCDE has a below-market fee structure that reduces cost to districts. The current 2/3 of 1-cent property tax rate collected by HCDE creates the organizational infrastructure of management and accountability that allows the services that HCDE provides to be developed.

How is HCDE funded?

HCDE generates 80% of the funding it uses to serve children and adult students through grants and by charging reasonable fees for services it provides. Approximately 20% of HCDE’s funding is generated from a local property tax rate that may never exceed one cent. The average homeowner in Harris County pays an estimated $12 per year to HCDE.

How can HCDE’s tax revenue funds be used?

HCDE exists under law to “equalize educational opportunity” in Harris County. HCDE’s elected Board ensures that HCDE spends tax dollars to develop and provide lower cost services so that schools can spend more local dollars in the classroom educating all students.

According to statute and general counsel, the County Superintendent’s salary and all expenses associated with maintaining the office shall be paid out of the funds from the tax. The office of the Superintendent is defined as the overall operations of the systems that support HCDE’s programs and services.

Is the Board of Trustees paid?

State law requires that trustees receive $6 for each meeting they attend. HCDE Board Members spend many hours each month working on HCDE issues, but they are not paid a salary or benefits for their work.

Does HCDE compete with Harris County school districts for student enrollment?

HCDE does not compete for student enrollment; instead, HCDE works hand-in-hand with school districts to help their teachers, administrators, and other education professionals achieve the objectives of their districts.

Does HCDE compete with Harris County school districts for state and federal grants/funds?

HCDE does not compete with school districts for state and federal grants or funds; rather, HCDE’s successful mission has been its unique record of attracting grants from which the school districts might not otherwise benefit. HCDE brings school districts together to be awarded grants.

Does HCDE have students “zoned” to its schools?

HCDE’s administration and staff can proudly say that all of the students they serve have been placed into their schools by their home school districts, the students’ parents, or the students themselves because of the unique services HCDE has been able to provide.

Does HCDE have services that can be accessed by out-of-county entities?

Services from out-of-county entities generate additional revenue that HCDE uses to support services to Harris County educators, districts, and students while not costing Harris County taxpayers. This is one way in which HCDE leverages its resources for taxpayers from approximately $20 million to about $100 million. For example,

  • In selected programs such as the alternative schools (Highpoint) and special needs schools (ABC campuses), school districts in counties adjacent to Harris County participate. These districts pay a higher fee than county districts thus providing additional revenues to the program and reducing the impact to Harris County taxpayers.
  • HCDE’s Choice Partners program provides services to governments throughout Texas and other parts of the United States. When these governments use Choice Partners, HCDE generates revenues that support the school districts of Harris County.

Does HCDE fully comply with all local, state and federal laws?

Yes. HCDE:

  • adheres to requirements related to conflict of interest laws. 
  • adopts policies and procedures that comply with all IRS guidelines for employment and contracted services.
  • follows all statutes written for school districts unless the statute conflicts with Chapters 17 or 18 of the Texas Education Code.
  • abides by the following legal basis for operation: 
    • HCDE Board Policy
    • Texas Education Code: The Harris County Department of Education was created by the Texas Legislature in 1889 under Texas Education Code, Chapter 17. COUNTY ADMINISTRATION, SUBCHAPTER C. COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT and Chapter 18. COUNTYWIDE EQUALIZATION FUND OR COUNTY UNIT SYSTEM OF EQUALIZATION TAXATION (Repealed 1993).
  • follows Texas Education Code, Title 2. Public Education, Chapter 44 FISCAL MANAGEMENT when it does not conflict with Chapters 17 and 18.