The Texas Education Agency announced Wednesday morning plans to install state-appointed managers in place of the Houston Independent School District’s elected school board. Over the past week, local and state lawmakers warned that a takeover was imminent.
“This action places a board of Houstonians — who have a firm belief that all children can learn and can achieve at high levels when properly supported — this action places that kind of board in charge of the district,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath told Houston Public Media. “I think it’s actually important for families to know that this decision is not a reflection of the incredible students in Houston ISD, nor is it a reflection of the hard working teachers and staff of Houston ISD. There are many students in Houston that are truly flourishing, but there are also a large number of students in Houston who have not been given the supports necessary to succeed.”
Morath described Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II as “a student-focused man of integrity,” but said he will also be replaced.
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.
The court battle and legislative intervention
TEA first tried to seize control of Houston ISD in 2019. The agency pointed to Wheatley High School — which failed to meet state standards — as well as dysfunctional district leadership. The move was held up by litigation until the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in TEA’s favor in January while allowing the case to continue in a lower court. On Thursday, the Houston ISD school board voted 8-1 to drop the lawsuit “in order to end further expenditure of district resources, as there are no further legal recourses.”
Democratic State Representative Harold Dutton took credit for the idea of a takeover, which has been opposed by many other members of his party. The idea became state law in 2015.