In early March, many began to wonder if the Texas Education Agency would take control of public schools throughout the state’s largest city, Houston. In late February, members of the House Public Education Committee had an opportunity to question members of the TEA about this particular topic.
“I’m hearing the streets have it. And I have to tell you what the streets have. It is going to be March 6th. And there are already persons that have been asked to take over the position of superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, and that it is going to take place by media, and that is going to take place on March 6th. Do you have any idea?” Texas Representative Alma Allen asked.
“Yeah, the streets — streets say a lot. So all I would say is we’re still waiting to evaluate the Supreme Court’s ruling — which has not yet been finalized — to try to discern then what our next required action is under state law. Of course, what we are going to do is going to be a mandatory action under state law, not a discretionary action,” Mike Morath, TEA’s most senior official said.
Two weeks later, the TEA has taken swift and polarizing action regarding the matter. According to Dominic Anthony Walsh of Houston Public Media, state officials will replace the Houston Independent School District’s locally elected school board with appointed officials.
“The state-appointed managers will hold immense power. They can control the budget, school closures, collaborations with charter networks, policies around curriculum and library books, as well as hiring or firing the superintendent, among other important decisions,” Walsh reports.
TEA has reportedly been attempting to take over the Houston Independent School District since 2019, citing years of poor performance and allegations of misconduct at Phillis Wheatley High School. In response to the TEA’s attempt to take over HISD, the district sued. Ultimately, the case went to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of TEA.
In the years since TEA first attempted to take over the district, Phillis Wheatley High School and other schools around the city have improved. Each year, TEA gives schools and districts a performance grade. In 2019, Phillis Wheatley High School received an F. Last year, the school in question received a C. Across the HISD, more than 90% of schools reportedly receive As, Bs or Cs. Overall, the district has received a B. As a result, many Houstonians are upset and frustrated by the state’s attempted takeover.
“The takeover of the largest school district in Texas is a politically motivated, irresponsible experiment that will worsen inequities and disenfranchise Houston voters,” Community Voices for Public Education Co-Founder Ruth Kravetz told the Texas Tribune.
“The test scores have risen, but they’re still trying to take over after we have worked so hard to accomplish that,” Nyla McCullum, a graduating senior at Phillis Wheatley, added.