HOUSTON – The Texas Education Agency is making moves to take over the largest public school district in the state, the Houston Independent School District. The state agency informed the HISD Board of Trustees last week of its intent to install a board of state managers and strip the board of trustees of its powers.
In a 23-page letter to HISD Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan and Board President Diana Davila, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said the reason for the takeover included the findings of a special accreditation investigation, the lowered accreditation status, the unacceptable performance of a district campus and the length of the conservator appointment. Read the full letter here.
Leaders with the Houston Federation of Teachers will hold a news conference Monday afternoon to raise questions about the TEA's proposed takeover of HISD.
The teachers' union will "highlight concerns about the Texas state law that allows the intervention, as well as the growing fear that the move appears to be politically motivated, with an agenda focused on something other than continuing to make improvements to HISD public schools, both for the students who attend them and the educators who work in them."
In an attempt to get answers about the state’s takeover, the American Federation of Teachers is filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Texas Education Agency for copies of any communication between the education commissioner or deputy commissioner, several charter school operators, HISD board member Jolanda Jones and pro-charter organizations.
“This is a power grab. In our judgment, watching it. This is a power grab. It has nothing to do with student achievement. It's actually going to hurt the community in Houston," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Board members with the Houston Federation of Teachers will be talking among themselves this week about the possibility of taking legal action against the TEA for its takeover of HISD. A decision will be publicly announced at a news conference on Monday, Nov. 18.
TEA is holding community informational meetings to provide information about the board of managers process. Community members are invited to attend and get their questions answered. The meeting schedule is below:
- Wednesday, Nov. 13: From 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Pershing Middle School Auditorium at 3838 Blue Bonnet Blvd.
- Thursday, Nov. 14: From 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Wheatley High School commons area at 4801 Providence St.
- Thursday, Nov. 21: From noon to 1:30 p.m. at Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center at 4400 W. 18th St.
- Thursday, Nov. 21: From 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Chavez High School Auditorium at 8501 Howard Dr.
The Houston ISD Board of Trustees will have until Nov. 20 to request a formal review to appeal the TEA decision for a state takeover. During the review, the HISD Board will be given a chance to state its case and try to prevent a state takeover. If requested, a review will take place and a formal decision about the installation of a board of managers will be made. A decision will be made about the state board of managers whether the HISD Board makes a request for a review or not.
Jan 2: The TEA posted a job description on its website Wednesday for people who want to apply to be on the board of managers. TEA will accept applications for the board of managers until Jan 2, after which appointments will be made.
2 to 5 years:
If a board of managers is authorized, the HISD Board of Trustees will not be dissolved. It will continue to exist and elections will be held. However, it will temporarily be stripped of its powers. When asked for a ballpark estimate of how long a TEA takeover would last, a spokesperson told KPRC2 that it could last for anywhere from two to five years. After that time period, the HISD Board of Trustees will be transitioned back into power.
There is currently no timeline for how long it would take to appoint and install a board of managers. In August, HISD sued the TEA, claiming the state agency was trying to stifle the trustees' First Amendment rights. No word yet on how this lawsuit might affect the takeover timeline.