The Texas Education Agency’s website documents indicate that the state is ready to appoint new Houston Independent School District leaders.
The TEA’s site had a job posting for a new board of managers to run the state’s largest school district and a slideshow explaining its duties before they were removed Tuesday night. The Texas Tribune saved both documents.
The Texas Supreme Court
The slideshow said the TEA appointed the new board due to years of poor academic outcomes at a single high school in the district, “requiring action to either close the campus or appoint a Board of Managers to govern the district.”
According to the documents, the TEA, which oversees and supports 1,200 school districts in the state, will interview candidates for the board of managers and appoint them by June 1. Board of managers candidates must be Houston ISD voters. The TEA commissioner determines board duration.
Houston ISD would be the agency’s most prominent takeover since 2000. In 2019, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath and the agency forced the district’s school board out due to trustee misconduct and years of low student performance at Phillis Wheatley High School.
A Travis County district judge granted a temporary injunction to Houston ISD in 2020 to stop Morath’s plan. The case reached the Texas Supreme Court last October when the agency’s lawyers argued that a 2022 law, which went into effect after the case was first taken to court, allows the TEA commissioner to replace a school board and superintendent if a school receives consecutive failing grades.
The Texas Supreme Court overturned the injunction in January and formalized its decision on March 1, allowing the TEA to appoint new school board members who could vote to end the lawsuit. Nearly 200,000 students attend 276 Houston ISD schools.
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Since Morath announced a takeover, student outcomes at Phillis Wheatley and the district have improved. In 2019, the TEA gave the high school an F. Houston ISD received a B, and Phillis Wheatley a C last year. HISD has reduced its D or F campuses from 50 to 10 in 19 months. 94% of HISD schools are A, B, or C.
Fifteen school districts are TEA-run. It oversees Shepherd ISD east of Conroe and Marlin ISD outside Waco. Eight communities were returned to local school boards, while others were closed or merged.
Houston ISD supporters say a state takeover would help struggling school districts. Removing the district’s elected school board members undermines the community’s will, and critics fear layoffs. Days before the TEA confirmed the takeover, parents, and teachers at HISD’s State of the Schools luncheon on March 3 called the plan an insult after the district’s improvements and an unnecessary disruption in the middle of the spring semester.
Miya Shay tweeted that the Texas Education Agency apparently preparing to takeover. You can take a look below:
Good morning, the Texas Education Agency, apparently preparing to takeover #HISD, the state’s largest school district, posts documents to its own website ahead of its own announcement. #txlege https://t.co/CnWwtruiRV
— Miya Shay (@miyashay) March 15, 2023
Ruth Kravetz, co-founder of Community Voices for Public Education, a local education advocacy group, said the commissioner should have congratulated Houston ISD for its academic improvement instead of punishing it.
“The takeover of the largest school district in Texas is a politically motivated, irresponsible experiment that will worsen inequities and disenfranchise Houston voters,” she said.
The Houston Federation of Teachers, led by Jackie Anderson, opposes the state replacing the democratically elected board.
“We will work night and day to ensure that students have access to specific programs and services they need and deserve to receive a high-quality public education in Houston schools,” she said.
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