Though the Texas Education Agency’s takeover of the Houston Independent School District is a done deal, members of the greater Houston community aren’t done sharing their thoughts on the drastic action.
Here are just a few of the comments coming from local individuals and organizations:
STATE REP. RON REYNOLDS, chairman, Texas Legislative Black Caucus
“Our goal with meeting with TEA Commissioner Morath was to find a local solution in good faith to address TEA’s concerns with HISD that do not involve taking away local control of the school district from its elected leadership and keeps our kids’ education in focus, especially as they are in the midst of a testing season. We are disappointed to learn that TEA will be moving forward with taking over HISD, a move that will affect over 194,000 students at 276 campuses across the district. If TEA can take over the 7th largest school district in the nation as a result of one underperforming school, who is to say other districts within the state of Texas won’t be next?
“Ultimately, we need to be focusing on the best ways to help serve our students and teachers, and a takeover of the school district, which we know has not worked in the past, is not the way to move forward. Research has shown that districts perform worse with test scores and student performance after the takeover of school districts. I invite my colleagues to support HB 3780 and to restore accountability when it comes to the TEA’s ability to take over school districts, because they deserve better, and frankly, the people deserve better.”
HANY KHALIL, executive director, Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation
“The takeover of the largest school district in Texas is an attempt to disenfranchise, demonize, and delegitimize the people of Houston. Making matters worse, it is only one part of a broader state strategy to block the people of Houston and Harris County from being able to exercise their basic right of self-governance. The truth is that our schools are improving and teachers, students and parents are overwhelmingly opposed to this takeover. This isn’t about helping students, it’s about taking power from the voters in the largest and most diverse municipality in Texas and blocking successful programs and policies that make the lives of working families in Texas better. We call upon Gov. Abbott and elected officials from both parties to reject these attacks on our schools, our communities, and our democracy.”
CONGRESSWOMAN LIZZIE FLETCHER, 7th Congressional District of Texas
“I am deeply disappointed by what we have seen from the TEA—both in its process and in its decision. Educating our children is vital for their futures, and for the future of our city, our state, and our country. With past and present challenges in mind, Houstonians—as teachers, staff, students, parents, and voters—have worked to improve HISD for all students and have addressed the specific ratings issues at Wheatley High School. Indeed, the Commissioner’s letter acknowledges the gains the district has made and the student-focused commitment of its recently appointed superintendent, who is widely respected in the community.
“It is anti-democratic for an appointed commissioner to take over an elected school board, and it is an affront to Houston voters. To do so based on a set of facts that has entirely changed raises several issues that must be addressed to protect our children, our communities, and our schools. The seventh-largest school district in the United States, HISD serves more than 190,000 students at 276 campuses—37 of them in Texas’s Seventh Congressional District. I will work with my colleagues and community leaders to protect our students and our schools and to put Houstonians back in charge of HISD.”
KYLIE MCNAUGHT, executive director, Harris County Democratic Party
“This is a blatant attack on the democratic process we have in Texas public education. Instead of listening to the experts who have been warning of the consequences of this takeover for years, TEA is steamrolling the will of HISD parents, teachers, and administrators. This takeover is not about the children of Houston, it is about furthering the agenda of Governor Abbott. “The Texas GOP has shown for years that they care more about diminishing local control and undermining the value of public education. This is exactly what the TEA takeover is about.”
CHARLES X WHITE, Community Activist
“Failure is the only way I can describe the low-performing malpractice of the educational efforts for decades by HISD.
“F – Parents put their trust in the hands of HISD staff to provide the building blocks of the learning process and good citizenship.
“F – I wish all these alphabet organizations would just stop their posturing and noise-making. After 40 years of failure, stop or regroup! Decades of parents were not accepted as a partner as stated in Chapter 26 (Parents’ Rights and Responsibilities), of the Texas Education Code. Students were railroaded into a criminalization process, that many of the elected officials voted in favor of in 1995. Senate Bill 1, or Chapter 37 (Law and Order), of the Texas Education Code. I feel bad for the students, parents and maybe the new superintendent. This was a setup.
“F – TEA has a POOR grade for taking over school districts.”
CHILDREN AT RISK
“Parents and teachers of Houston ISD have been on edge since Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned of an impending Texas Education Agency takeover of the district. In January 2023, the Texas Supreme Court threw out the past injunction, allowing for TEA to go through with the takeover that has been on its do-to list since 2019 following years of low performance at Wheatley high school in the district. CHILDREN AT RISK does not believe that the Texas Education Agency’s takeover of HISD will be good for kids.
“Houston ISD stands as the largest school district in the state, serving over 196,000 students. State takeovers may be well-intended but have a track record of failing to deliver on promises.
“Like school districts across the nation, HISD has struggling schools. Of their 265 campuses, Houston ISD had 101 A or B schools in the 2022 CHILDREN AT RISK School Rankings. From 2019 to 2022, HISD increased its number of Gold Ribbon schools from 17 to 24.
“If TEA does decide to make HISD their latest project, we urge them to keep three things in mind:
1. Don’t mess with success – HISD has many challenges, but it also has many successes including magnet programs, an increasing number of Gold Ribbon schools and intensive supports like wrap-around services. Learn from what is working and spread that success.
2. Double down on early education – Pre-K and early elementary grades aren’t part of the STAAR test but the learning in these grades is just as important. Keep class sizes manageable and kids engaged to ensure that these critical fundamentals are established.
3. Keep kids first – Time on task and individualized learning are keys to student growth. Maximize both of these with teacher training and daily schedules that allow for these efforts.
“Whether it is the TEA or the elected board of Trustees who are running Houston ISD, the focus must remain on what is best for Houston’s children. Adequate funding, consistent leadership and community support are needed for successful schools, but effective classroom instruction and policies most important for children and our future.”
HOUSTON MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER
“This process has been without community engagement or any transparency. It is disheartening that the Texas Education Agency has yet to speak directly to parents or school children. This announcement is happening during their spring break, creating a great deal of disruption, anxiety, and stress.
“This does not make good sense. And if the focus is on the kids, then you tell me how this benefits the kids. TEA is selecting the board of managers. So who are they? The state deserves an F on how they have handled the process up to this point. Just a flat-out F.
“Under this superintendent and school board, significant progress has been made in HISD. Forty of 50 former D or F-rated schools are in a much better status today. I give great credit to the teachers and students at Wheatley High School. You don’t reward success by penalizing not just that school, but you’re taking over 275 other schools as well.
“This takeover is not about the quality of education. If you look at the Texas Legislature, several bills have been filed to pre-empt the authority of the city of Houston and other local jurisdictions. HISD happens to be one of those local jurisdictions.
“There is no example of a successful takeover by the state of a local school the size of HISD. A report by the Kinder Institute said the school district’s status is worse after a school takeover. So, by what standard should we measure TEA? Is the agency saying to teachers and parents that after this takeover, there will be no failing schools in HISD, none?
“I’m also told that they’ve already decided who the superintendent is going to be, and that decision has been made. This process needs more transparency with community engagement. “This is about Austin and the leadership in Austin wanting to run local government, and they want it their way. This takeover is not about the kids, and the sad part is that they are using the kids for their own politics.”
JOHN CREAR, Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
“It’s going to be a disaster. I see principals, teachers leaving. We saw where Crosby ISD received over 100 teacher applications, How many from HISD? As I said, it’s going to be a disaster. Children in rich areas don’t have to worry about if the gas is going to be turned off, power going to be turned off if they’re going to be evicted. Plus, their parents stress education, can afford to give them the tools to perform well. The State of Texas is at the bottom of the barrel as far as spending on education.”
KARLA BROWN, concerned citizen
“Who’s going to hold TEA accountable since they think they can do better? Their poor record does not substantiate their decision. We’ve never seen a district come out better because they were taken over and better managed.”
MARY GARRETT, concerned citizen
“We must read everyone’s biography before electing them to Austin or DC.”
CLAUDELL CANNADY, concerned citizen
“Happened in St. Louis where I’m from about 20 years ago. The state and a private company took over for a while. It was a mess until the city took it back. The Bush “No Child Left Behind” nonsense was a lot of the blame, too.”
INGRID TRAYLOR WILLIAMS, concerned citizen
“I don’t think it is right to remove elected persons with no accountability to the people. I also don’t see how having improved to a C from an F merits the takeover of a whole school district! You also added all those failing schools n NE Houston and we still have an overall B! This is some political BS. It’s going to be a SS because, as usual, the Republicans have no plan, just critique. And yes, you can quote me or show me the blueprint they are proposing with expected results!”
KIM TOPPS, concerned citizen
“Need an investigation. Lack of transparency for a school district that is no longer struggling. Where were the community forums, information sessions… We just met with the TEA administrators at AKA Day (in Austin) last week. If this was the intention, why the roll-out like this, and on Spring Break?”
BILLIE JEAN, educator
“Republicans hate public education and want to promote charter and private schools: privatization of education. They will target those schools that are still predominantly Black. Houston ISD is the fourth largest district in the US. They plan to make a dollar.”
LEORA DONA, educator
“Who can we lobby to be on the board? That’s where TEA is starting; replacing the board, then the superintendent. And see how we can get more parents engaged in their children’s education. As a teacher in a lower-income neighborhood, I see the lack of parent involvement and how that decreases student morale.”