Headshot of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee speaking at the mic
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Credit: AP Photo by Alex Brandon

TEA Takeover: Stay focused

Texas Education Agency logo with the letters T and E in blue, The top half of A in red, the bottom half of A in blue and the words Texas Education Agency in blue
Texas Education Agency logo
Houston Independent School District logo; houston independent school district in navy blue against a white circle background; blue and white shaded star in the center of the white circle surrounded by leaves on each side
Houston Independent School District logo

The Houston Defender has covered the poor performance of predominately Black schools in Houston Independent School District for decades. Where were the parents and community leaders speaking out as our kids continued to fall through the cracks? There were some who spoke up. We emphasized the need for someone to step up and address the needs of Black schools failing. State Rep. Harold Dutton was one of the few elected officials constantly challenging the status quo to address the school district’s shortcomings from his bills to break up HISD into smaller districts, to his final victory with the passage of House Bill 1842. In 2015, recognizing the importance of this legislation to address the poor-performing schools, 18 lawmakers voted against the bill and 125 folks voted for it including local Black State legislators Alma Allen, Senfronia Thompson, Sylvester Turner and of course Harold Dutton. Black legislators voting against the legislation were State Rep. Garnet Coleman. Absent was Texas Senator (then a state rep) Borris Miles.

This is not about one school… Remember, the takeover was triggered by the school performance and the board management/conflicts.

What do we do now that the TEA Takeover is official?

headshot of Mike Morath in a dark suit, light colored shirt and deep read tie; against heather gray background
Mike Morath
headshot of Millard House II in a dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie with blue and white pin stripes; against off-white background
Millard House II

Let’s look forward, not backward.

  • YES, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Morath should talk to the community about the plans going forward.
  • Let’s recommend the best candidate for the Board of Managers to apply by June 1, 2023
  • Next, recommend TEA consider keeping current Supt. Millard House II because he obviously has made some progress in the district
  • If you have other constructive ideas TEA should consider – share them on Defender social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

Granted, the Texas legislators are talking about vouchers, but we don’t think there are enough private, parochial and charter schools to accommodate the almost 200,000 HISD students. So, we need to fix HISD. Period.

Game changer

Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Rep of Congressional District 18, is officially in the Houston mayor’s race and the local political arena is buzzing.

Could the congresswoman who has served over 25 years follow in the footsteps of her former congressional colleague Karen Bass, who is now mayor of Los Angeles?

Black votes

headshot of Amanda Edwards
Amanda Edwards
Chris Hollins
Chris Hollins

So, what happens to the other Blacks in the race for mayor of Houston: Amanda Edwards and Chris Hollins? To avoid splitting the Black vote both are being encouraged to get out of the race. Rumors are flying from recommendations for one of them to run for Controller, to the possibility of one being name City Attorney if Sheila wins, to Sheila endorsing one for her vacant position, and more to come. Who knows what will happen?

Another question is what do those who have committed to Hollins and Edwards do now? Will they go to Sheila or Whitmire? This is just pontificating.

The duel

State Senator John Whitmire
State Senator John Whitmire Credit: Twitter @whitmire_john

Throwing her hat in the ring is a game changer with political pundits placing Jackson Lee and State Senator John Whitmire in a head-to-head race, projecting a run-off. Houston mayors Lee Brown and Sylvester Turner were successful in the past building relationships across parties. The race may boil down to who can garner the lion’s share of Hispanics, Asians, white moderate Democrats and white conservative Republicans, because Houston’s mayor’s race has never been won with just Blacks. Whitmire has strong ties in the Black community, from Acres Homes to Kashmere Gardens to Pleasantville, with a legacy of service. One political consultant’s survey claims Whitmire could beat Jackson Lee because of the white and Republican support he would attract. “Can Jackson Lee build that competitive coalition?” Stay tuned.

The reality is Sheila can hold on to her congressional seat while she runs for mayor, so it’s a win/win. In addition, this opens the door for Sheila to raise a lot of money.

Airport saga

Houston Hobby Airport entrance
Houston Hobby Airport entrance

In the battle for the 10-year contract for Hobby Airport concessions, Areas USA, a subsidiary of the Spain-based Areas SAU, has emerged victorious over Pappas Restaurants. Pappas has filed a protest, accusing the City of Houston of violating state law.

Out of the 10-scoring criteria metrics, the competitors were close with Areas @ 85.8 and Pappas @ 85.2. According to sources, nine of the metrics were subjective but the deciding factor boiled down to the percent of net profits to go back to the City of Houston. Pappas agreed to 15.5% and Areas agreed to 22.2%. The results – Areas won.

Some say “It was time” if you believe in the spirit of rotation and sharing the wealth. We love Pappas Restaurants and appreciate all Chris Pappas has done for our great city. But look at this like term limits. After 20+ years managing the Hobby Airport concessions with over $900 million in revenue, Pappas can still enjoy other city contracts like the Intercontinental Airport, Pappasito at the Hilton of America hotel and Pappadeaux in the George R. Brown Convention Center. I’m sure it is a big hit on the bottom line, but everything must change.

Harold Dutton resigns

A collage of duplicate portrait images of State Rep. Harold Dutton dressed in a suit with one arm folded and another arm raised up with his index finger pointed to his check
State Rep. Harold Dutton Credit: Artwork by Aswad Walker

Serving in the Texas Legislature since 1984 (39 years), Dutton, 78, has canceled his membership in the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, which is celebrating the Legislative Summit’s 50th Anniversary. In a letter addressed to the caucus chairman Ron Reynolds, Dutton stated that after proposing a public education panel for the upcoming summit he was not asked to serve on that panel or any panel during the summit. Dutton wrote, ”Either way, you are engaging in stank leadership which ignores the plight of Black Texans.” The letter then got personal (read the full letter on defendernetwork.com). Allegedly, one of the summit coordinators was a big supporter of Dutton’s opponent.

Texas Legislative Black Caucus

50th Anniversary Legislative Summit

April 2-4, 2023

Hyatt Regency Austin in Austin, Texas.