State Lawmakers Move To Thwart HISD Takeover


Houston ISD | Image by KHOU 2

Elected officials from the Houston area are circling the wagons in a bid to prevent the possibly imminent takeover of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

State legislators filed a bill that would overhaul the existing law that stands as the basis for the takeover, and HISD trustees plan to confront TEA officials in Austin later this month, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Senate Bill 1662 was filed by Sens. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), John Whitmire (D-Houston), and Borris Miles (D-Houston).

Alvarado explained to The Dallas Express that the current law requires the TEA to appoint a new board, but her bill would give the agency more leeway in responding to failing school districts.

“If SB 1662 were passed, [TEA Commissioner Mike Morath] would immediately have the powers authorized by the statute including the authority to not take over the district,” Alvarado told The Dallas Express in an emailed statement.

“[It] provides [other options] when the TEA believes that an intervention is needed. Like issuing a public notice of the deficiency to the board of trustees, or ordering a hearing to be conducted by the board of trustees to notify the public of deficiencies, among others outlined in the bill,” she added.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner publicly acknowledged rumors that the agency could move to dismiss HISD’s school board and appoint a board of managers as soon as this week.

HISD, the biggest school district in Texas, has been operating under the threat of takeover for years because one of its campuses logged five consecutive years of “unacceptable performance rating[s],” a trigger that allows TEA to take over the district under current law.

“If TEA holds off on the possible takeover of HISD until SB 1662 becomes law, the legislation would ideally prevent the state takeover of the district,” Alvarado noted to The Dallas Express.

However, if TEA goes through with it, it will be the first time the state manages a district of that size. Should the state-appointed board succeed in improving district performance, it could signal to state officials that TEA takeovers of other troubled big-city districts, like the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), may be a viable option.

The Dallas Express reached out to DISD and asked if there was any concern among the district’s leadership that it could face a takeover because of some of its campuses’ poor academic track records.

A district spokesperson relayed that there was no such concern, noting that none of its schools have logged enough consecutive unacceptable ratings (D and F letter grades or Unrated, per TEA guidelines) to put DISD at risk.

Critical to DISD’s current standing, however, is the TEA’s adoption of a rating exemption policy for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years because of across-the-board downturns in student performance due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas public schools and districts were not assigned an accountability rating for those years that counted towards the legal takeover trigger.

A review of TEA accountability reports conducted by The Dallas Express found two campuses (Frederick Douglass Elementary and Franklin D. Roosevelt High School of Innovation) that logged unacceptable ratings for the 2018-2019 and 2021-2022 school years. Like the rest of the district, they were let off the hook for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, possibly keeping them from accruing four consecutive years of unacceptable ratings.

However, a birds-eye view of the district last school year suggests wider performance issues. Twenty-nine campuses received the equivalent of a D or F or were otherwise not rated by TEA.

More alarmingly, 29 campuses scored less than 60 out of 100 on their student achievement ratings, which factor in things like STAAR exam scores and graduation rates.

Despite the best efforts of the district’s hardworking teachers, only 41% of DISD students scored at grade level on the STAAR last year and almost 20% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 did not earn a high school diploma.

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Diana Davis
Diana Davis
17 days ago

Until student s are held acceptable Things will only to go downhill. there is not a shortage of teachers. Good teachers are leaving the field because there is no discipline. The schools ate full of kids doing illegal drugs without consequences. That’s all schools even the highly rated schools drugs know no boundaries.