‘Takeover is not good’: Mayor Turner shares thoughts after rumors surface of TEA taking control of Houston ISD

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed rumors Wednesday about the state’s possible takeover of the Houston Independent School District.

During the City Council meeting, Turner asked, “How do you take over the largest school district in Texas?”

In March 2022, HISD Superintendent Millard House II told KPRC 2 that he understands the challenges, referring to fixing them as opportunities.

“It’s going to take some serious work. It’s going to take some bold decision-making. It’s going to take money as well, it’s going to take cuts at the same time, but it’s necessary,” House said.

House outlined those necessities in a strategic five-year plan for HISD. He also described the district’s relationship with the Texas Education Agency as positive – including reaction to his five-year plan.

But in January, the Texas Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to potentially take control of HISD, which state education officials say has been plagued with various issues, according to the Texas Tribune.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath first moved to take over the district’s school board in 2019 in response to allegations of misconduct by trustees and years of low performance at Phillis Wheatley High School.

Houston ISD sued and, in 2020, a Travis County district judge halted Morath’s plan by granting a temporary injunction. The injunction was upheld by an appeals court, but the TEA took the case to the state’s highest court, where the agency’s lawyers argued last year that a 2021 law — which went into effect after the case was first taken to court — allows for a state takeover.

The Texas Supreme Court sided with TEA and threw out the injunction, saying it isn’t appropriate under the new law. The decision could allow TEA to put in place new school board members, who could then vote to end the lawsuit.

The Texas Education Agency released the following statement to KPRC 2:

“TEA continues to review the Supreme Court’s decision in order to determine next steps that best support the students, teachers, parents, and school community of the Houston Independent School District.”

The Texas Tribune contributed to this story.

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