Texas announces takeover of Houston schools
Share this @internewscast.com

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas officials on Wednesday announced a state takeover of Houston’s nearly 200,000-student public school district, the eighth-largest in the country, acting on years of threats and angering Democrats who assailed the move as political.

The announcement, made by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s education commissioner, Mike Morath, amounts to one of the largest school takeovers ever in the U.S. It also deepens a high-stakes rift between Texas’ largest city, where Democrats wield control, and state Republican leaders, who have sought increased authority following election fumbles and COVID-19 restrictions.

The takeover is the latest example of Republican and predominately white state officials pushing to take control of actions in heavily minority and Democratic-led cities. They include St. Louis and Jackson, Mississippi, where the Legislature is pushing to take over the water system and for an expanded role for state police and appointed judges.

In a letter to the Houston Independent School District, Morath said the Texas Education Agency will replace Superintendent Millard House II and the district’s elected board of trustees with a new superintendent and an appointed board of managers made of residents from within the district’s boundaries.

Morath said the board has failed to improve student outcomes while conducting “chaotic board meetings marred by infighting” and violating open meetings act and procurement laws. He accused the district of failing to provide proper special education services and of violating state and federal laws with its approach to supporting students with disabilities.

He cited the seven-year record of poor academic performance at one of the district’s roughly 50 high schools, Wheatley High, as well as the poor performance of several other campuses.

“The governing body of a school system bears ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of all students. While the current Board of Trustees has made progress, systemic problems in Houston ISD continue to impact district students,” Morath wrote in his six-page letter.

Most of Houston’s school board members have been replaced since the state began making moves toward a takeover in 2019. House became superintendent in 2021.

He and the current school board will remain until the new board of managers is chosen sometime after June 1. The new board of managers will be appointed for at least two years.

House in a statement pointed to strides made across the district, saying the announcement “does not discount the gains we have made.”

He said his focus now will be on ensuring “a smooth transition without disruption to our core mission of providing an exceptional educational experience for all students.”

The Texas State Teachers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas condemned the takeover. At a news conference in Austin, state Democratic leaders called for the Legislature to increase funding for education and raise teacher pay.

“We acknowledge that there’s been underperformance in the past, mainly due to that severe underfunding in our public schools,” state Rep. Armando Walle, who represents parts of north Houston, said.

An annual Census Bureau survey of public school funding showed Texas spent $10,342 per pupil in the 2020 fiscal year, more than $3,000 less than the national average, according to the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston.

The state was able to take over the district under a change in state law that Houston Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. proposed in 2015. In an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle on Monday, Dutton said he has no regrets about what he did.

“We’re hearing voices of opposition, people who say that HISD shouldn’t have to face consequences for allowing a campus to fail for more than five consecutive years. Those critics’ concern is misplaced,” Dutton wrote.

Schools in other big cities, including Philadelphia, New Orleans and Detroit, in recent decades have gone through state takeovers, which are generally viewed as last resorts for underperforming schools and are often met with community backlash. Critics argue that state interventions generally have not led to big improvements.

Texas started moving to take over the district following allegations of misconduct by school trustees, including inappropriate influencing of vendor contracts, and chronically low academic scores at Wheatley High.

The district sued to block a takeover, but new education laws subsequently passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature and a January ruling from the Texas Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to seize control.

“All of us Texans have an obligation and should come together to reinvent HISD in a way that will ensure that we’re going to be providing the best quality education for those kids,” Abbott said Wednesday.

Schools in Houston are not under mayoral control, unlike in New York and Chicago, but as expectations of a takeover mounted, the city’s Democratic leaders unified in opposition.

Race is also an issue because the overwhelming majority of students in Houston schools are Hispanic or Black. Domingo Morel, a professor of political science and public services at New York University, said the political and racial dynamics in the Houston case are similar to instances where states have intervened elsewhere.

“If we just focus on taking over school districts because they underperform, we would have a lot more takeovers,” Morel said. “But that’s not what happens.”

Share this @internewscast.com
You May Also Like

FTC: Microsoft illegally collected, stored children's Xbox data without notifying parents

The Federal Trade Commission says Microsoft illegally collected and retained the data…

Heat player says people shouldn’t ‘Florida shame’ residents

Olafimihan Oshin, The Hill Updated: Jun 6, 2023 / 07:41 AM CDT…

Waynesboro man sought for violating family violence order

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) – The Waynesboro Police Department would like the public’s…

Astrud Gilberto, 'The Girl from Ipanema' bossa nova singer, dies

The singer was so closely associated with “The Girl from Ipanema” that…

Amazon Orders ‘Angry Birds Mystery Island’ Animated Series; Harvey Guillén, Kate Micucci, Dominic Monaghan, Nasim Pedrad Among Cast

A new iteration of Angry Birds is heading to Amazon. Prime Video…

Another Plane Carrying Migrants Arrives in Sacramento

Another plane carrying migrants arrived in Sacramento on Monday, and California officials…

White House website highlights infrastructure as Biden pushes policy wins

WASHINGTON – The White House on Tuesday is launching a website to…

Salford Red Devils make Tyler Dupree decision after fundraising deadline closes

Dupree has been the subject of interest from some Super League clubs…

Serial killer fears surface after 6 Oregon women found dead

  A veteran homicide prosecutor tells Law&Crime the deaths of six women in…

Clay County emergency management director retires just days into hurricane season

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Just a week into the hurricane season,…

Jeffery David Salazar put cocaine in Sonic hot dog: Cops

Jeffery David Salazar (Española Police Dept.) A 54-year-old cook at a Sonic…

Martin Lewis shares rare young snap of wife as fans share same joke

TV’s money saving expert delighted fans with a rare throwback snap alongside…