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Texas State Officials Take Over Houston Schools

Educational Commissioner says action was needed because of violations of the law and poor academic ratings

Texas officials are taking over Houston’s public school district after years of what state leaders considered a failure to properly educate students.

In a March 15 letter to the Houston Independent School District, Mike Morath, the state’s Commissioner of Education, advised that his office is appointing a Board of Managers and naming a new superintendent after five consecutive years of  “unacceptable academic accountability ratings.”

Morath notified the district of his intent to appoint the Board in 2019, citing not only poor academic ratings, but also “multiple violations of law in the district, and the fact that the continued appointment of a conservator had been necessary in the district for at least two school years to ensure changes were made to improve student academic performance.”

The school district obtained a court injunction shortly thereafter that prevented the state from intervening. In January 2023, the Texas Supreme Court vacated the injunction, which was formally dissolved on March 1.

The Board will be able to control the budget, school closures, collaborations with charter school networks, policies on curriculum and library books, and the hiring and firing to the superintendent, Houston Public Media reported.

“This action is necessitated because of the conditions of the schools in Houston ISD. Houston has many schools that are outstanding, some of the best schools in the state, and in fact, large numbers of kids in Houston are truly flourishing,” Morath told a local Fox affiliate. “But there’s also a number of students in Houston ISD who the district has not simply provided adequate support for … to be successful, and in some cases, for extended periods of time.”

Morath added, “Ultimately, a school board is responsible for the outcomes of a school district for what students are experiencing. And so, this action is necessitated by that.”

Houston ISD released a statement, saying: 

HISD has received official notice that the Texas Education Agency intends to replace Houston ISD’s superintendent and elected trustees of the Board of Education with an appointed superintendent and board of managers in the next few months. The Board is reviewing this notice to determine next steps. 

In the meantime, our great schools remain open and committed to providing a meaningful educational experience for all students. The District’s top priority is, and will continue to be, student outcomes. The Board hopes that TEA has a clear and transparent process for this announced transition that is communicated to the community and the District.

The Board, in partnership with District Administration, will work with the Commissioner of Education to create a smooth transition for the sake of all HISD students, staff, and families.

Texas state senator Paul Bettencourt, in a statement posted on Twitter, applauded the move to install a Board of Managers, blasting “nefarious” actions by the current trustees.

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