On Wednesday, a long, uncertain journey came to an end as Texas officials announced a state takeover of Houston Independent School District citing poor performance. However, the decision has sparked ire among Democrats who believe it to be a political move.
Mike Morath, Texas’ education commissioner, was the one who made the announcement, making it one of the largest school takeovers in U.S. history. Houston ISD is home to nearly 200,000 students and it’s the eighth-largest district in the country. It has stirred controversy in the community, which is majority Democratic. Some believe the decision is just another attempt by Republican leaders to regain control following election failures and COVID restrictions, AP News reports.
In a letter to the district, Morath said the Texas Education Agency will replace Superintendent Millard House II and the district’s board of trustees with a new district leader and an appointed board of managers consisting of district residents.
Additionally, he said the board has failed to improve students’ academic outcomes while holding “chaotic board meetings marred by infighting.” However, it’s an argument that contradicts the feelings of the board and trustee members.
“As of the school year ending in 2022, 40 of 54 failing campuses have shown passing grades of C and an overall grade of B for the District as a whole,” said HISD Trustee Kathy Blueford-Daniels, KHOU 11 reports. “Wheatley High School students have improved from a failing grade to a C and are only a few points away from a B. There is still work to be done, but we must keep the focus on the students.”
Yet, Morath pointed to the district’s seven-year history of low academics at one of the district’s nearly 50 high schools, Wheatley High.
“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,” the letter reads.
Superintendent House and board members will continue serving until their replacement sometime after June 1. The new members will expect to serve for at least two years.
What made this takeover possible was a change in state law in 2015 by Houston Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. In an op-ed piece he wrote for the Houston Chronicle, he made it clear that he stands by that decision.
“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,” it reads.
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