Houston, TX

Texas Education Agency Announces Takeover of Houston Schools, Sparking Controversy and Outrage

The Bendr Daily

Protesters against the takeover.Photo byHouston Public Media

Texas officials have announced a state takeover of the Houston Independent School District, one of the largest school districts in the US, with nearly 200,000 students. The announcement was made by the state’s education commissioner, Mike Morath, and involves replacing the elected board of trustees and the superintendent with an appointed board of managers. This decision has angered Democrats who are accusing the state of political maneuvering.

In a letter to the Houston Independent School District, Morath accused the current board of failing to improve student outcomes and of violating open meetings act and procurement laws. He also cited the district’s poor academic performance, particularly at Wheatley High, one of the district’s high schools.

Most of the Houston school board members have been replaced since the state began making moves towards a takeover in 2019, and the current superintendent will remain in place until the new board of managers is chosen.

The takeover is seen as controversial by some, with community backlash likely. Critics argue that state interventions have generally not led to significant improvements. Others have highlighted the issue of race, as the overwhelming majority of students in Houston schools are Hispanic or Black.

This decision comes after years of 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 were 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.

State takeovers of school districts have occurred in other major cities such as Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Detroit in recent decades. However, such takeovers are generally viewed as last resort for underperforming schools and are often met with community backlash.

Overall, this decision to take over the Houston Independent School District is significant and has garnered both support and opposition. It remains to be seen whether it will lead to significant improvements in the district’s academic performance.

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