TEA Takeover: What’s next for HISD?
The imminent takeover of Houston ISD has community, state and local officials in an uproar.
The news surrounding Houston Independent School District and the potential takeover by the Texas Education Agency is a significant challenge to the state’s public education system.
Texas’ largest school district has been locked in a legal battle to stop the takeover for years. Recently, Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed rumors about the state’s takeover that could happen starting the week of March 6.
If this move happens, TEA will be responsible for all 300 campuses and more than 190,000 students; a decision Turner believes will be disruptive and confusing for those impacted.
“And now we have the state coming in and taking over the largest school district in the state and bringing in their managers,” Turner said during a city council meeting. “What parents have you talked to? What buy-in have you received? What teachers have you talked to? What principals have you talked to?”
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said no final decision had been made after being questioned by Rep. Alma Allen over the reports during this month’s Public Education Committee meeting.
“We’re waiting to evaluate the Supreme Court’s ruling that has not yet been finalized,” Morath said. “What we’re going to do is going to be a mandatory action under state law, not a discretionary action.”
If the state moves forward with the takeover? What will that mean for Black parents, teachers, students and the community?
Where it started
In 2015, state legislators passed a bill that permits the state to shut down schools or take them over if public schools fail the state standards for five or more years.
Wheatley High School was on the chopping block for repeated low academic performances at the time. This impending battle between HISD and the state began in 2019 due to alleged misconduct by certain HISD trustees and concerns about perpetually failing schools.
TEA announced a takeover, but HISD sued the state and was granted a temporary injunction. In January 2023, the Texas Supreme Court finally sided with TEA.
HISD Superintendent Millard House II joined in 2021, ready to address the historical issues in the school district. The Defender asked House in 2021 about his leadership teams’ relationship with the board. He stated that the commissioner was excited to see where the district was going and was very supportive of their work.
Recently, the HISD Foundation hosted its annual State of Schools luncheon, celebrating 100 years of educational success at HISD. House confidently listed the district’s achievements, including how HISD earned a ‘B’ grade rating overall and how 19 months ago, 50 campuses were rated “D or F,” and now “10” campuses remain in that status.
What will HISD look like during a takeover?
During a district takeover, the TEA would appoint a manager to oversee district operations and replace HISD’s nine-member elected board with a “board of managers.”
According to the TEA website, the agency would host a community meeting and open applications for manager roles. The commissioner gives the final review and approval of the managers.
Texas law states that a takeover can last a minimum of two years. The commission can extend it for another two years if they see more progress needed to improve the district’s academic or financial performance.
How will this impact Black communities in Houston?
Staci Childs is a District 4 Texas State Board of Education, member. In February, she hosted a community town hall discussing the state of education for Black students in Harris County. She says right now is a crucial time for the community to get involved and to connect with city officials on the issue.
“A takeover would mean you’ll no longer have an elected board of trustees that [the people] put into office,” said Childs. “These are people who are supposed to know the community, they live (in Houston), and they’re supposed to know the educational space. These people are vetted.
“The concerns of many constituents are how will they build trust with a board they never voted in? And ways to help create awareness and take action within the means of their control.”
Arnetta Murray is a special education teacher at West Briar Middle School who joined several educators opposed to the decision at press conferences led by state representative Jarvis Johnson.
“What scares me is the possibility of losing our job. Possibly our contracts will be null and void. We don’t know what they are going to do. They aren’t talking to the teachers. Teachers are working under stress, and it’s unfair,” Murray said. “I’ve been an educator for 15 years. I love what I do. Enough is enough. You all want us to put our all into the schools and children, but want to keep us from telling us what’s next?
Linda Brown is a Wheatley High School alumna who says she plans to do everything in her power to help her alma mater from shutting down.
“My concern is for the students and parents; the fact that they are projecting to close the school down,” she said. “Wheatley is a monument in our community. I don’t know where the students will end up going. They’d have to be transported somewhere else. It’s an inconvenience and lack of serving the community.”
President of NAACP Houston Branch Bishop James W.E Dixon, had a few requests to demand from TEA during the press conference.
“Explain to us your rationale. You can’t convince us a B+ rating is still worthy of being taken over,” he said. “Until you can do that, we are asking you to stand down, issue a moratorium, delay the action until there can be accountability, because your action does not match the reality.”
- Oct 2019: TEA expresses intent to takeover HISD
- Jan 2020: Judge issues injunction halting takeover
- Dec 2020: Third court of appeals rules against TEA
- Feb 2021: HISD appeals to supreme court
- Oct 2022: Supreme Court hearing
- Jan 2023: Supreme Court vacates injunction