Reporters in Houston had a lot to tweet about during a Houston ISD meeting on Wednesday. Police officers were ordered to clear the room. Amid shouting and anger, people refused to leave. In a scuffle outside, one woman was put in handcuffs and taken away. Another woman was dragged away from HISD’s board meeting.
The board was considering a controversial measure to give control of 10 continuously low-performing Houston public schools to a charter program. After the meeting, the district – which is the largest in Texas and the 7th largest in the nation – decided not to move forward with the charter partnership.
Shelby Webb, an education reporter for the Houston Chronicle, attended the meeting. Webb says the Texas Education Agency, or TEA, has two options now.
“They can either come in and close these schools, or they can take over the entire school district by appointing a board of managers that will essentially replace the elected school board,” Webb says. “They also have another option of closing and reopening some of these schools. They have proposed that in community meetings and those options were pretty unpopular because the students who are already there would have to leave. And they would have to basically reopen one grade level each year.”
She says some are hoping that the TEA will grant the district a waiver because of Hurricane Harvey, but that decision won’t come until June.
Opponents of the charter partnership say it amounts to privatizing public education. The proposed partner, Energized for STEM Academy, already runs four schools within HISD.
Webb says that school closings in the past have affected mainly families of color, and this time it’s no different.
“Every single one of these schools is located in a predominantly African American or Latino neighborhood,” Webb says. “All of them are somewhat lower income.”
The school district decided not to give control of the 10 schools to Energized for STEM Academy, but that doesn’t mean an end to parents’ frustration.
“They’ve been disproportionately affected by school closings over the past two decades,” Webb says. “Now it looks like 10 of their schools could close again or face significant changes, and I think it sort of has exacerbated the same frustrations that have been in these communities for decades.”
Written by Jen Rice.