FILE – People hold up signs at a news conference Friday, March 3, 2023 in Houston while protesting the Texas Education Agency’s proposed takeover of the city’s school district. Texas officials on Wednesday, March 15, announced a state takeover of the nearly 200,000-student Houston public school district, the eighth-largest in the country, in response to years of threats and angry Democrats who had attacked the move as political. (AP Photo/Juan A. Lozano)
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas officials announced on Wednesday a state takeover by Houston The nearly 200,000-student public school district, the eighth-largest in the country, was responding to years of threats and angered Democrats who had attacked the move as political.
The announcement by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s commissioner of education, Mike Morath, equates to one of the largest school takeovers of all time in the United States. It also deepens the rift between Texas, the largest city where Democrats are in control, and Republican leaders who have been seeking more authority choice fumbles And COVID-19 Restrictions.
The takeover is the latest example of Republican and mostly white state officials pushing to seize control of actions in heavily minority and Democrat-run cities. they include st louis And Jackson, Mississippi, where lawmakers are pushing for takeover of the water system and for an expanded role for state police and appointed judges.
In a letter to the Houston Independent School District, Morath said the Texas Education Agency would replace Superintendent Millard House II and the district’s elected board of trustees with a new superintendent and an appointed board of directors composed of residents within the district’s boundaries.
Morath said the board failed to improve student outcomes while holding “chaotic board meetings marred by infighting” and violating the Open Meetings Act and Procurement Acts. He accused the district of failing to provide adequate special education services and violating state and federal laws with its approach to supporting students with disabilities.
He cited the seven-year record of poor academic performance at one of the district’s 50 or so high schools, Wheatley High, as well as the poor performance of several other campuses.
“The governing body of a school system has ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of all students. While the current board of trustees has made progress, systemic issues at Houston ISD continue to impact district students,” Morath wrote in his six-page letter.
Most Houston school board members have been replaced since the state took steps toward an acquisition in 2019. House became superintendent in 2021.
He and the current school board will remain until the new board is elected sometime after June 1st. The new board is appointed for at least two years.
Noting progress across the district in a statement, House said the announcement “doesn’t disregard the gains we’ve made.”
He said his focus will now be “ensuring a smooth transition without disruption to our core mission of providing all students with an exceptional educational experience.”
The Texas State Teachers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas condemned the takeover. At a news conference in Austin, Democratic leaders called on the legislature to increase funding for education and raise teachers’ salaries.
“We recognize that there has been underperformance in the past, largely because of this severe underfunding in our public schools,” said state Assemblyman Armando Walle, representing portions of North Houston.
An annual Census Bureau survey of public school funding found that Texas spent $10,342 per student in fiscal 2020, more than $3,000 less than the national average, according to the Children’s Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston.
The state was able to take over the district under a legislative change proposed by Democratic State Assemblyman Harold Dutton Jr. in 2015 the Houston Chronicle On Monday, Dutton said he has no regrets about what he did.
“We hear opposition voices, people saying that HISD shouldn’t face consequences if a campus fails for more than five years in a row. The concerns of these critics are misplaced,” Dutton wrote.
Schools in other major cities, including Philadelphia, New Orleans and Detroit have undergone state takeovers in recent decades, which are generally viewed as a last resort for underperforming schools and often face community backlash. Critics argue that government intervention has generally not resulted in large improvements.
Texas began taking over the district after school administrators made allegations of misconduct, including improperly influencing supplier contracts and chronically low academic results at Wheatley High.
The district sued to prevent a takeover, but new education laws subsequently passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and a January Texas Supreme Court ruling paved the way for the state to seize control.
“All of us Texans have an obligation and should come together to reinvent HISD in a way that ensures we provide the highest quality education for these children,” Abbott said Wednesday.
Schools in Houston are not under the mayor’s control, unlike in New York and Chicago, but as expectations of a takeover mounted, the city’s Democratic leaders joined in opposition.
Race is also an issue because the overwhelming majority of students in Houston schools are Hispanic or Black. Domingo Morel, a professor of political science and public services at New York University, said the political and racial dynamics in the Houston case are similar to cases in which states have intervened elsewhere.
“If we just focused on acquiring school districts because they’re underperforming, we’d have a lot more acquisitions,” Morel said. “But that doesn’t happen.”
Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.
Source : news.yahoo.com