Houston Independent School District trustees voted Thursday night to end their lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency (TEA), bringing an end to a five-year legal battle between the two parties over whether the state should have control over the state’s largest school district.
“For the last five years, we fought for our students’, parents’, and communities’ right to a democratic voice,” Trustee Elizabeth Santos said in an emotional apology to the Houston community. “During that time, we had two elections. We had all of our schools achieve passing ratings despite a global pandemic, but we eventually lost at the Supreme Court, and we don’t have any procedures to pursue our case any further.”
“This battle is over, but our fight for democracy and public education will never be over; now is the time for the community to come together and win by uniting our voices at the legislature, our neighborhood schools, and at the ballot box,” Santos said.
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Following the board’s decision, Houston-area state Rep. Ron Reynolds issued a statement. Reynolds claimed in an interview with FOX 26’s Isiah Carey that TEA Commissioner Mike Morath told him that the state’s announcement of a takeover was “imminent.”
“We talked, and he told me he’d be meeting with us Houston legislators to basically let us know that it’s imminent,” Reynolds said in an interview with Fox 26 reporter Isiah Carey. “Once they meet with us, they will almost certainly send a letter to HISD announcing the takeover, and they will then get input on who should be on the board of managers to oversee the district.”
The State Agency Decision
The state agency, according to Reynolds, has decided to replace the current board of trustees with other officials, leaving current board members to serve as “figureheads.” “The dually elected board of trustees would be there as figureheads; they wouldn’t have any power to hire or fire superintendents, hire or fire school principals, or make decisions on behalf of the district,” Reynolds told Carey.
houstonisdwatch Tweeted about the matter on Twitter. You can see the Tweet below.
Representatives from Houston continue to oppose the takeover and have introduced legislation to counter it. Senators Carol Alvarado, John Whitmire, and Borris Miles introduced legislation earlier this week that would provide TEA with alternatives to state intervention. Wheatley High School received failing accountability scores from TEA for five consecutive years, prompting the state takeover.
Since TEA filed its lawsuit in 2019, the school has improved its rating and is now a C-rated campus. Rep. Alma Allen has also introduced similar legislation in the House. However, with a Republican majority in both chambers, it is unclear whether it will pass or whether it will pass in time to avoid state intervention.
Reynolds told Carey that TEA has the authority to terminate or buy out HISD Superintendent Millard House II’s contract. Furthermore, because of the bill’s ambiguous language, it’s unclear how long the TEA-appointed board will serve.
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Since Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the likely takeover last week, residents, state lawmakers, parents, and students have spoken out against the state’s intervention. Local organizations are planning a protest march on Saturday, March 11, at 3 p.m. at Wheatley High School to express their displeasure with the state agency’s decision. According to state records, HISD is currently rated B for accountability.
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