Ruling Paves Way for State Takeover of DISD

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath | Image by WFAA

A recent ruling by the Texas Supreme Court has enabled a potential state takeover of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), and could spell the same for the Dallas Independent School District’s (DISD) own Board of Trustees.

The court lifted a lower court’s injunction against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) last Friday that was preventing it from appointing managers to replace the elected HISD Board of Trustees.

Serious allegations of misconduct and a long-standing record of poor student outcomes put HISD’s school board in the crosshairs of Texas public school regulators, who concluded that the district’s leadership was not fit to oversee the biggest school district in the state.

TEA first moved to take over the district in 2019, but HISD sued and won an injunction that was subsequently reaffirmed by a Texas appeals court.

However, the Texas Supreme Court overruled the appeals court’s decision, claiming that the injunction was inappropriate in light of a newly enacted law that provides an easier path for the state to take over dysfunctional or poor-performing districts.

“When a school district fails to meet statewide expectations designed to ensure the effective education of Texas schoolchildren, the Education Code authorizes the Texas Education Agency Commissioner to assist in improving the district’s performance,” read the court’s opinion.

The matter will now be remanded to the original trial court, which will reevaluate HISD’s request for an injunction in light of the new law.

TEA’s move to take over HISD comes under the leadership of Commissioner Mike Morath, who has been aiming to hold elected school board members more accountable for academic outcomes.

“It’s the leadership at the district level that sets the stage for whether [public schools] can succeed or not,” said Morath back in 2016, speaking before the Texas Senate Education Committee.

It is unclear whether TEA will move quickly to replace HISD’s Board of Trustees, having told The Texas Tribune that it is currently reviewing the court’s opinion.

Still, the implications of the ruling go beyond HISD and could affect similarly troubled school districts like DISD.

While HISD has made some modest improvements in academic outcomes in recent years, DISD has trended in the opposite direction, particularly with regard to on-time graduation rates, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

The district’s latest accountability report found that almost 20% of its Class of 2022 failed to graduate in four years. Furthermore, only 41% of DISD students scored at grade level on last year’s STAAR exams.

In contrast, HISD managed to bump its on-time graduation rate up to 85.7%, with 43% of its students scoring at grade level on their STAAR exams.

Additionally, both districts only saw 25% of their students earn credit for a college prep course or score at or above the college-ready standard on exams like the SAT and ACT, well under the 41% statewide average.

TEA also deemed 29 DISD schools as “Not Rated,” meaning they received a scaled score of under 70 out of 100 for the 2021-2022 academic year. The TEA scores take into account factors like student achievement metrics and whether the campus has improved its performance over the previous year.

For its part, HISD had 17 “Not Rated” schools last academic year.

Morath has been critical of the DISD Board of Trustees for years, voicing support for reforms that would make the school board more responsive and accountable to the people it is supposed to serve and educate, even back when he was a DISD trustee before being appointed TEA commissioner.

“There is no real accountability to children for board members. Trustees are accountable to us, the voters. But such a tiny number of us vote that [it] is easy for adult special interests to triumph over the need to improve outcomes for children,” Morath said.

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  1. Bill

    Both HISD as well as DIDS have gotten way too big for their britches.
    The cost vs reward in education in Texas is Pathetic.

  2. William McBreen

    This is what happens when democrats run things

    • C. Edward Jones

      I suppose you think that the Republican can do better? We will end up like the US house of Representative if we are not careful. The problem with the Educational system is you have to many paper pusher, and not enough qualified committed educators. Quit teaching to the test, and teach the basic skill sets. Reading, Writing, and Math. what we have now is three administrator looking over the teacher shoulder If they want to teach let them get out the Admin building, and stand to post. If a kid can receive a basic education the rest will be easy not all student want attend collage, and that’s okay. They way things are going now we are headed to Hell in a handbasket. I the state wants to do something manage the purse string follow the money. “Stop The Waste” It not about the Dems vs the Repubs it about the future of our kids.

      • Janet

        For most of the commenters on this forum it is always about Dems vs Repubs, “woke” vs “un-woke”. They listen to the right-wing carnival barkers who think as long as the electorate is divided and confused, they won’t notice which Politicians are dedicated to Public Service and which ones are drunk with power and money! The result is no one is solving the problems that need solving and we all suffer, including our kids.

  3. Bill

    DISD is massively over funded and run by people who could not manage a convenience store. They waste money by the 10s of millions of dollars with effectively no oversight and steal as much if not more every year. I can hardly wait for the state to take over and maybe they will not waste the $1400 per-month that I am forced to give the.

  4. Karen

    The current leaders in these districts are more interested in indoctrinating the children in to their “woke” agenda than teaching the basics.

    • C. Edward Jones

      You got the right name. You have no idea what Woke means something you just mimic from other right wing nut with no ideas on how to make things better.

  5. Glorias Dixon

    Maybe Mike Morath should find a way to hold all those cash-guzzling charter schools accountable

    • C. Edward Jones

      Why is everyone so quick to turn the education of our kids to politicians? It’s our money lets get parents involved we know what our kids need, and it not another booth licking politicians. The present system we are under is root cause for the current problems we are experiencing like low test scores, dropout increase, low self esteem high rate of drug use, suicide among school age kids etc. These are problem best addressed by the local community not Austin.

  6. Shelley

    Wonderful that you are reporting this gigantic wart on our society. Texas has never, in my long life, had the school system that produced stellar students. It seems those students who did achieve and become worthy members of society had to accomplish this on their own volition, with supportive parents. I don’t know what the fix is, but we may need to bring back superior authority and superior pay to administrations and teachers. Legal changes and tort reform for protections from over zealous parents and students would allow teachers and administrators to run their business. (Charter schools are doing well pretty much across the US.) Heck, if the students don’t want to learn, then why force them? Assign them to a military school, vocational leaning school, or give them a one-way ticket to Afghanistan. Learning used to be a privilege as well as a right. ( It still is in lots of countries where I have worked throughout my life.) It should be a privilege only to those who want to learn. The rest should not be allowed to drag down the bar.

    If teachers were paid $100,000+ per year to teach and run their own classrooms, administrators would have the pick of the crop. I have seen this work in my college and graduate school years. Well paid professors had standing room only in their classrooms. Students learned, and there were no problems. I am still in touch with some of those professors – 40+ years later. How rewarding is that?

    My parents were both educators. They did not allow insubordination or disruption in their classroom. The students were simply removed if they didn’t want to learn. Administrators should be given the authority to remove children who are not understanding the learning privilege.

    Politics has NO place in the school system. This is where students should go to learn academics and the facts… and that is ALL. If that learning is accomplished, they will emerge smart enough to decide their own politics.

    Mr. Morath, thank you. I believe you are on the right path.


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