The Houston school board has voted 7-2 to accept a $7.5 million gift for the district's arts high school and rename the campus for the donors.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the vote marks the first time the the school system has sold naming rights for a campus.
The Kinder Foundation, run by Houston billionaire couple Rich and Nancy Kinder, offered the donation in exchange for calling the campus the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The money will go toward rebuilding the school downtown, and paying for theater lighting and seats, a sound system, and a specialized dance floor.
The downtown campus is expected to open in 2018. It is being built with funding from bonds approved by Houston Independent School District voters in 2012. The original budget was $80 million, and $8 million was added to cost projections to address rising construction costs.
After district officials subsequently disclosed that the high school would cost an extra $5 million to pay for features such as theater lighting, fundraising began and the Kinder Foundation became involved.
The name change had been in doubt since opposition arose at a meeting earlier in the week. Several board members expressed frustration over the private negotiations regarding the gift.
Houston board member Jolanda Jones, who joined with board member Diana Davila to oppose the deal, described the gift and renaming process as "sneaky."
"I find it offensive that people say if you don't vote for this, that you don't care about the kids," Jones says. "Actually I care about all the kids in HISD. It seems like HISD is like a pimp, and the schools are what they sell. That was the nicest way I could think to say it."
Others expressed concern about whether it was equitable to pour more money into the school. It has a much lower percentage of low-income students and black and Hispanic students than the district average. To get into the school, students must apply and audition. The school's principal, Scott Allen, says he has stepped up recruiting and diversity efforts.
Several students from the arts high school and parents urged trustees to accept the donation.