The Texas takeover of Houston schools has many enraged, in a state that makes much of regional rights over widespread authority.
On Wednesday, Texas education commissioner Mike Morath announced that the state would be taking over Houston’s public school district, which serves nearly 200,000 students. In a letter to the Houston Independent School District, the 8th largest in the country, Morath said that the Texas Education Agency will supplant Superintendent Millard House II and the district’s elected board of trustees. They’ll be replaced in June with a board of managers appointed by Governor Greg Abbott.
According to Morath, the takeover is because the school board has failed to improve student outcomes, especially for students with disabilities and special needs. He was able to point to seven years of week performance at several of the district’s 50 high schools.
“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.
Teachers unions and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are loudly condemning the takeover. They say the performance of the school districts was an excuse for the right-wing state leadership to take control of heavily-blue Houston’s educational infrastructure.
“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. The funding of Texas schools has long been a fight between the school districts and the state government. Texas spends about $3000 less per year per pupil than the national average.
The Texas takeover began several years ago. The Houston ISD sued to stop it, but the GOP-controlled state legislature and state supreme court changed laws to make it possible.
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