The Texas Education Agency will take control over the Houston Independent School District, removing the locally elected school board and superintendent with state-appointed managers.
The state takeover of the 200,000-student school district was announced Wednesday by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s education commissioner, Mike Morath, The Associated Press reported.
The takeover is controversial because it gives the state control over the district’s “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,” according to Houston Public Radio.
Arguments for the takeover
The state takeover of the Houston Independent School District is legal under a Texas law that allows the Texas Education Agency to remove and replace schools boards in districts that fail certain standards, CNN reports.
In a letter to the school district, Morath said the board had failed to improve students’ academic performances, violated open meetings act and procurement laws, and violated state and federal laws by not providing proper special education services, according to The Associated Press.
Abbott supported the takeover, stating, “All of us Texans have an obligation and should come together to reinvent HISD in a way that will ensure that we’ll be providing the best quality education for those kids,” per AP.
Arguments against the takeover
Opponents of the state takeover argue that the move takes away power from locally-elected leaders.
The ACLU of Texas called the move a “hostile takeover,” stating that it will “take away the power of local communities to elect their own leaders.”
Opponents also argue that the move is political and is not actually about the performance of the school.
“The state takeover of HISD is not about public education — it’s about political control of a 90 percent Black and brown student body in one of the country’s most diverse cities,” the ACLU of Texas wrote on Twitter.
The state takeover of HISD is not about public education — it's about political control of a 90 percent Black and brown student body in one of the country's most diverse cities.— ACLU of Texas (@ACLUTx) March 15, 2023
And it's not what our students and teachers need.
Domingo Morel, an associate professor of political science and public service at New York University, told Houston Public Media that “there may be groups that are seeking to exploit this to gain their political power.”
“So, it stands to reason that whites would be winners in this particular situation — that they’re looking to gain political power,” Morel continued.
“People of color represent the majority in the state of Texas ... but at the state legislative level, they’re in the minority,” he said. “And so the way to create political power across the state is through the cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas. ... Because the schools are such an important part of the political power at the city level, when you take away the schools, you take away the power to the city as well. And then you start to really curtail that community’s power — not only at the city level, but then eventually at the state level.”