Texans React to Houston ISD Takeover


Houston ISD seal | Image by NBC NEWS CHANNEL

Reactions have been pouring in from across the Lone Star State after Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath notified the Houston Independent School District (HISD) leadership on Wednesday that he would be appointing a new board of managers to run the district in the coming months.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Morath informed the HISD Board of Trustees and Superintendent Millard House II that they are to be relieved of their control over the district.

“I will not take action to name a superintendent or install the Board of Managers prior to June 1, 2023, in order to ensure sufficient time for the recruitment, selection, and training of the Board of Managers,” wrote Morath.

The move has set off a firestorm of reactions from public officials and residents alike.

Gov. Gregg Abbott said at a press conference Wednesday:

“It’s really unfortunate … There has been a long-time failure by HISD and the victims of that failure are the students, and all of us, not just legislators, but all of us Texans have an obligation and should come together to reinvent HISD in a way that will ensure we’re going to be providing the best quality of education for those kids.”

The Board of Directors for the Texas Association of School Boards released a statement the same day in opposition to the move, saying, “We urge the TEA Commissioner to reconsider this drastic move and return governance to a locally elected Board of Trustees, accountable to voters and the community.”

In Houston, district teachers and anti-takeover activists gathered and voiced their concerns.

Bishop James Dixon spoke on behalf of the Houston chapter of the NAACP, claiming the TEA’s decision was “oppressive partisan politics, and about suppressing people’s right to rule themselves.”

For his part, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) said in a statement to KHOU 11:

“I’ve watched, at best, an ineffective HISD Board of Trustee Governance for 8 years as the second longest serving member on the Senate Education Committee.

“A highly critical TEA report of nefarious trustees activity and a subsequent FBI investigation with multiple indictments which resulted in a plea deal with a former HISD Trustee, have concerned me greatly. Therefore, I strongly support Commissioner Mike Morath’s decision to install a Board of Managers for the HISD school district.”

The unprecedented move by TEA paves the way for big districts to take the threat of takeover seriously and do something about flagging student outcomes.

While the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is not at immediate risk of triggering a state takeover, more than two dozen of its campuses logged student achievement scores lower than 60 out of 100 last school year, according to the latest TEA accountability report.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, two campuses might have brought DISD to the brink were it not for the extraordinary measures taken by TEA to exempt the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years from counting towards the five consecutive years of “unacceptable” ratings that legally trigger state takeover.

The news of HISD’s imminent takeover has also prompted an array of responses from parents in the Houston area.

“I would hope they make the best decisions for us and overall for our students and our teachers with what’s going on in the school board,” said Brittanee Jones, ABC 13 reported.

Others were less on the fence.

“I’m in shock. I was looking forward to them not taking over, but hearing this is just really shocking,” Stephanie Arizmendi told ABC 13.

She did, however, offer some guidance to TEA and HISD’s future board of managers:

“Our kids need a great education. They need parents to be able to have a say in what they want. Just go nicely, I guess.”

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4 days ago

It seems a difficult comparison between illegal activity in HISD compared to test scores in DISD. What are test scores and campus unacceptable ratings in HISD. That would be an easier comparison between the 3

Charles Moncrief
Charles Moncrief
Reply to  Marty
4 days ago

I might be inclined to agree with you, that illegal activity in one district doesn’t compare to test scores in another. But both are criteria for which action should be taken.

Charles Moncrief
Charles Moncrief
4 days ago

I think it’s about time that SOME corrective action was taken toward some school districts. Possibly this is the start of something very needed, and that it will restore the long-lost practice of educating students rather than indoctrinating them to garbage politics and social promotion.

Anna W.
Anna W.
Reply to  Charles Moncrief
4 days ago

Need to get rid of a lot of these School Board Members. They give their friends all of these bogus contracts. When you get a good superintendent the board want them to bow to them and override what the Superintendent , Principals and Teachers are trying to do. Parents and the community want VOTE their blanks out.