Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced during Wednesday morning’s city council meeting that legislators have told him the Texas Education Agency could be poised to take over Houston ISD as soon as this week.
Citing sources in the legislature, Turner said the takeover could happen soon. If it happens, he said the TEA could replace the entire HISD board of trustees as well as Superintendent Millard House II and replace them with state-appointed members.
“We cannot be silent on this one. The state is overreaching,” Turner said during the city council meeting Wednesday morning.
Wednesday morning email requests to both the TEA and HISD for comment in response to the revelation were not returned prior to publication.
TEA commissioner Mike Morath first pushed for a takeover of the school board in 2019 with efforts to replace them amidst allegations of board misconduct as well as nearly a decade of low academic performance at Wheatley High School. HISD sued the TEA in 2020, and was granted an injunction by a Travis County judge – which was later upheld by an appeals court.
However, this past January, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the agency and threw out the injunction – clearing the way for a potential takeover. House II issued a few comments in January following the ruling.
“My team will continue to be laser focused on doing the work to support our schools and ensure continued academic achievement for all of our HISD students,” he said in a Jan. 13 video posted to the district’s Twitter account. “We look forward to the years ahead, and the amazing work we will do together.”
HISD consists of 173 schools, and nearly 190,000 students in total. And Turner questioned how a takeover would work.
“I find that totally alarming,” he said. “… How do you come in and take over the largest school district in the state of Texas? How do you do that, and do it successfully?”
One of the tenants of the TEA’s initial attempts to take over the district was low academic performance, particularly at Wheatley. But over the last three years, Turner said 40 of HISD’s 50 schools that received a D or F in the education agency’s academic ratings prior to the pandemic, are no longer there and have received passing grades.
In the most recent ratings released last year, Wheatley earned a passing grade of a C for the first time in nearly a decade according to TEA data, and HISD as a whole had an 88 rating – a B+ rating. So, Turner questioned why the takeover needs to happen.
“Under this superintendent and board, (those schools) have made academic significant academic progress in HISD,” he said.
And ultimately, Turner said he believes that a state takeover of the district and its board of trustees would bring a cloud over the district that would have a negative impact on the students, parents, and rest of the district.
“Who will (the state) be accountable to? What about the parents and students? Who has taken into account what they want, and the impact it would have on these 190,000 kids?” he asked. “It’s not good for the students, for the parents, the teachers, or the faculty. And neither is it good for the city of Houston. It creates a great deal of uncertainty and will generate a lot of worry by a lot of parents.”
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