Governor Greg Abbott
Governor Greg Abbott Credit: LM Otero/Associated Press

A new poll from New Economy for Working Houston confirms widespread opposition to the state takeover of the Houston Independent School District. According to the poll, local voters do not support the takeover of HISD, trust their local ISD over the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and do not believe the takeover will improve HISD schools. Instead, voters want the state to focus on increasing public education funding.

The findings come after TEA named Mike Miles as the new HISD superintendent along with nine unelected board members, replacing members elected by the community to serve Houston.

“The hostile takeover of our schools along with the replacement of our superintendent and democratically elected board members is not only morally wrong, it’s also unpopular,” said Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation and Chair of NEW Houston. “It’s hard to think of much worse than the exploitation of schools as a vehicle to impose an extremist political agenda. The good news is that our community is seeing right through this, especially on the heels of so many other anti-Houston legislative efforts aimed at taking over our local elections and basic functions of self-governance.”

Key findings of the survey include:

  1. Harris County voters trust local leaders more than state leaders to address public education. Two-thirds of Harris County voters believe “Parents, teachers, and the leaders closest to the community are the best situated to make choices about our schools, not unelected state bureaucrats who aren’t accountable to the voters and don’t know our community.” That is the opinion of majorities in Houston ISD (70%), CyFair ISD (60%), Humble ISD (63%), Klein ISD (69%), and Pasadena ISD (85%). Moreover, 57% of Harris County voters say they trust local elected leaders in their area more than the state government to ensure a quality education for our kids.
  2. Voters are more likely to approve of their ISD than the Texas Education Agency, even in HISD. TEA’s approval rating is 31 points net-negative (27% approve, 58% disapprove) with Harris County voters, including voters across each major ISD.
  3. TEA’s takeover of HISD is not popular and voters doubt it will improve HISD schools. Only 44% of Houston ISD voters support TEA taking over. Across Harris County, just 43% of voters say the takeover will make improve HISD schools and only 39% of HISD voters believe that.

Instead of ineffective takeovers, voters want state leaders to help schools by increasing funding. A 66% majority of voters agree “The solution to struggling schools is for the state to increase public education funding so we can attract and retain better teachers and reduce classroom sizes, not to give control to the state leaders underfunding public education.” That is the position of majorities across each major ISD, including the more conservative voters in CyFair ISD and Humble ISD.

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