TEXAS (AP) — Texas officials announced a state takeover of Houston’s eighth-largest public school system, with roughly 200,000 students, on Wednesday, following on years of threats and infuriating Democrats who criticised the action as political.
According to Mike Morath, the commissioner of education for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, this announcement represents one of the biggest school takeovers in American history. The biggest city in Texas, where Democrats are in charge, and state GOP leaders, who have been clamouring for more power after election blunders and COVID-19 limits, are now even more deeply divided.
The coup is the most recent instance of Republican and largely white state authorities trying to wrest control of affairs from Democratic-led and heavily minority communities. These include Jackson, Mississippi, and St. Louis, where the legislature is attempting to assume control of the water system and to give the state police and appointed judges a bigger role.
The Texas Education Agency will appoint a new superintendent and a board of managers made up of local residents to replace current superintendent Millard House II and the district’s elected board of trustees, according to a letter from Morath to the Houston Independent School District.
Morath claimed that despite holding “chaotic board meetings tainted by infighting,” the board has failed to enhance student performance “as well as breaking the procurement and open meetings regulations. He charged that the district’s strategy for assisting students with disabilities violated state and federal rules by failing to offer adequate special education services.
He mentioned other campuses’ bad performance, as well as Wheatley High’s seven-year track record of subpar academic performance at one of the district’s roughly 50 high schools.
“The decision-making body of a school system is ultimately accountable for every student’s performance. Although the current Board of Trustees has made strides, students in the district continue to be impacted by systemic issues in Houston ISD “In his six-page letter, Morath stated.
When the state started taking steps towards a takeover in 2019, the majority of Houston’s school board members have been changed. In 2021, House was appointed superintendent.
He will continue serving along with the current school board until the new board of directors is selected after June 1. The new board of directors will be chosen for a minimum of two years.
The announcement “does not devalue the successes we have made,” House said in a statement, pointing to accomplishments made throughout the district.
According to him, his current priority is to make sure that “our core objective of providing a great educational experience for all students” is not disrupted by the transfer.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas State Teachers Association also denounced the takeover. State Democratic leaders urged the Legislature to enhance school funding and teacher wages during a news conference in Austin.
State Representative Armando Walle, who represents a portion of north Houston, stated, “We understand that there has been underperformance in the past, primarily due to that significant underfunding in our public schools.
According to the Kinder Center for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, a yearly Census Bureau survey of public school spending revealed Texas spent $10,342 per kid in the 2020 fiscal year, more than $3,000 less than the national average.
According to a change in state legislation that Houston Democrat Harold Dutton Jr. introduced in 2015, the state was able to take over the district. Dutton said in a Monday op-ed post for the Houston Chronicle that he has no regrets about what he did.
“We’re hearing criticism, people saying that HISD shouldn’t be punished for allowing a campus to fail for more than five years in a row. The worry of such opponents is unfounded,” Dutton stated.
State takeovers of schools have occurred in recent decades in a number of other large cities, including Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Detroit. These actions are typically seen as a last resort for failing schools and are frequently faced with opposition from the local population. Some claim that despite official involvement, little has really changed.
After claims of malfeasance by school trustees, including improper influence over vendor contracts and persistently poor academic performance at Wheatley High, Texas began moving to take over the district.
The district filed a lawsuit to prevent a takeover, but new education rules were later passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature, and a January decision by the Texas Supreme Court made it possible for the state to take over.
Texas officials announce a state takeover of Houston’s nearly 200,000-student public school district, the eighth-largest in the country. https://t.co/bPEBM9o9F1
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 16, 2023
Abbott stated on Wednesday, “All of us Texans have a responsibility and should work together to reimagine HISD in a way that will assure that we’re going to be providing the finest quality education for those students.
Unlike to New York and Chicago, Houston does not have a mayor in charge of its schools, but when takeover rumours grew, the city’s Democratic leaders banded together to oppose them.
The fact that Black or Hispanic pupils make up the vast majority of students in Houston’s schools raises further racial issues. The political and racial dynamics of the Houston case, according to Domingo Morel, a professor of political science and public affairs at New York University, are comparable to situations where states have acted elsewhere.
“We would have a lot more takeovers if we just focused on taking over school districts because they underperform,” Morel claimed. Yet it isn’t what actually occurs.”