Democratic Texas State Rep. Ron Reynolds, center, together with fellow Texas legislators, speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Washington.
Democratic Texas State Rep. Ron Reynolds, center, together with fellow Texas legislators, speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Washington. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus joined forces with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and Texas House Democrat Caucus for a press conference in Austin in response to the Texas Education Agency’s decision to take over Houston ISD and the aftermath.

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Members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus’ Houston delegation met with TEA Commissioner Mike Morath to converse over the concerns about the impact of the takeover.

They said Houston ISD has had exemplarily growth in performance over the past few years and that the move will be counterproductive. TXLBC Chairman Rep Ron Reynolds ensured the community that the legislature opposed of this decision will continue to pursue all options to bring more accountability to the agency.

“Many Black and Brown communities are really going to suffer as a result of this,” Reynolds said. “We are looking into all available options to respond to this including HB3780 by our own member (State Rep.) Alma Allen.”

Reynolds says that the proposed House Bill 3780 bill would provide an immediate remedy to roll back the takeover.

It states the following:

If a campus is considered to have an unacceptable performance rating for five consecutive school years the commissioner, may [shall] order:

1) Appointment of a board of managers to govern the school district. [or]

2) Closure of the campus [or]

3) Any actions authorized under 39A.002 which means:

– The Commissioner may issue a public notice of the deficiency to the board of trustees of the district

– Order a hearing to be conducted by the board of trustees of the district to notify the public of:

(A) the insufficient performance;

(B) the improvements in performance expected by the agency; and

(C) the interventions and sanctions that may be imposed under this subchapter if the performance does not improve;

Allen, filed House Bill 3780 on March 7. The bill would amend the law to allow TEA to choose less “hostile” options besides taking over a district or closing campuses.

TEA’s leadership was in question throughout the process, particularly in its own previous takeovers.

In a report from the Houston Chronicle, of the 15 former state takeovers, four districts have closed. Seven of the districts had predominately Black populations, and seven had mostly Hispanic student bodies, while Shepard ISD is the only ISD taken over by TEA with a majority white student body.

June 1 is when the state intends to take control of HISD. Superintendent Millard House II and the locally elected school board will be replaced with an appointed board of managers.

“We have a great superintendent in HISD, Millard House II, but he (Morath) didn’t give any specifics. Obviously, he probably has someone in mind, but he did not disclose that. But that is at his discretion and the new board of managers is also at his discretion,” Reynolds said. “We believe it’s a slap in the face of local control. The local voters elected school board trustees, Millard House and he’s doing a great job turning the district around. There is no reason to terminate his contract.”

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Laura OnyenehoEducation Reporter

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...