HOUSTON – Reaction to the news that the Texas Education Agency is moving forward with a takeover of Houston Independent School District are pouring in since the announcement on Wednesday.
Here are impressions from HISD’s superintendent, lawmakers and others who are sounding off about the situation.
RELATED: TEA to take over Houston ISD after weeks of speculation
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner:
“This process has been without community engagement or any transparency. It is disheartening that the Texas Education Agency has yet to speak directly to parents or school children. This announcement is happening during their spring break, creating a great deal of disruption, anxiety, and stress.
“This does not make good sense. And if the focus is on the kids, then you tell me how this benefits the kids. TEA is selecting the board of managers. So who are they? The state deserves an F on how they have handled the process up to this point. Just a flat-out F.
“Under this superintendent and school board, significant progress has been made in HISD. Forty of 50 former D- or F-rated schools are in a much better status today. I give great credit to the teachers and students at Wheatley High School. You don’t reward success by penalizing not just that school, but you’re taking over 275 other schools as well.
“This takeover is not about the quality of education. If you look at the Texas Legislature, several bills have been filed to pre-empt the authority of the city of Houston and other local jurisdictions. HISD happens to be one of those local jurisdictions.
“There is no example of a successful takeover by the state of a local school the size of HISD. A report by the Kinder Institute said the school district’s status is worse after a school takeover. So, by what standard should we measure TEA? Is the agency saying to teachers and parents that after this takeover, there will be no failing schools in HISD, none?
“I’m also told that they’ve already decided who the superintendent is going to be, and that decision has been made. This process needs more transparency with community engagement.
“This is about Austin and the leadership in Austin wanting to run local government, and they want it their way. This takeover is not about the kids, and the sad part is that they are using the kids for their own politics.”
HISD superintendent Millard House II:
“I stepped into my role understanding the obstacles we faced as a district including a looming TEA intervention. My team and I remained focused on building a framework that prioritized a high-quality educational experience supported by world-class talent for all students.
“I am proud to say, in the last 19 months, we have already seen vast improvements. Because of the hard work of our students, teachers, and staff, we have lifted 40 of 50 schools off the D or F TEA accountability ratings list. Together, with our parents, community members and leaders, we developed the district’s first comprehensive five-year strategic plan to build a better HISD.
“Today’s announcement does not discount the gains we have made district-wide. I am confident our educators and staff will continue to do the necessary work to ensure positive student outcomes at every level. For our students and families, it is education as usual, and the school year continues as normal. As we wrap up this school year, my focus will be on working with our Board of Trustees and the TEA to ensure a smooth transition without disruption to our core mission of providing an exceptional educational experience for all students.”
TEA to HISD:
Houston Federation of Teachers president Jackie Anderson:
“While we remain resolutely opposed to the decision, we will work night and day to make sure that students have access to specific programs and services that they need and deserve to receive a high-quality public education in Houston schools.”
Texas State Teachers Association president Ovidia Molina:
“The Texas Education Agency’s takeover of Houston ISD is an injustice to HISD students and educators, especially at a time when the locally elected board, its administrators and its teachers have been scoring marked improvements in student progress.
“Since 2019, when TEA began taking steps toward the takeover, HISD voters have replaced board members who were accused of misconduct. Under new leadership, the hard work of students and educators has reduced the number of campuses with a D or an F rating from 50 to 10.
“HISD’s nearly 200,000 students, their parents and other taxpayers have a lot invested in HISD, including the futures of these children. To continue the district’s progress, it is important for these parents and taxpayers to remain in control of their students’ educations through their ability to keep electing school board members who will remain accountable to them.
“They will lose that control when their elected board members are replaced with board members handpicked by the unelected state education commissioner. The commissioner is not responsible to HISD parents and taxpayers. He is responsible only to Gov. Greg Abbott, whose top education priority is taking millions of dollars in tax money from HISD and other public school districts and transferring it to unregulated private schools.
“Abbott is less interested in supporting HISD and other public schools than he is in privatizing them.
“Another problem with the state takeover is the flawed law and state accountability system under which it has been ordered. Real progress in HISD is being disrupted because too many students failed to pass STAAR, a high-stakes standardized test that isn’t — and never has been — an accurate measure of student progress.”
U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, of Texas:
“I am deeply disappointed by what we have seen from the TEA—both in its process and in its decision. Educating our children is vital for their futures, and for the future of our city, our state, and our country. With past and present challenges in mind, Houstonians—as teachers, staff, students, parents, and voters—have worked to improve HISD for all students and have addressed the specific ratings issues at Wheatley High School. Indeed, the Commissioner’s letter acknowledges the gains the district has made and the student-focused commitment of its recently appointed superintendent, who is widely respected in the community.
“It is anti-democratic for an appointed commissioner to take over an elected school board, and it is an affront to Houston voters. To do so based on a set of facts that has entirely changed raises several issues that must be addressed to protect our children, our communities, and our schools. The seventh-largest school district in the United States, HISD serves more than 190,000 students at 276 campuses—37 of them in Texas’ Seventh Congressional District. I will work with my colleagues and community leaders to protect our students and our schools and to put Houstonians back in charge of HISD.”
HISD Board of Education:
“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 Sen. Paul Bettencourt:
“I’ve watched, at best, an ineffective HISD Board of Trustee Governance for eight years as the second-longest serving member on the Senate Education Committee. A highly critical TEA report of nefarious trustees activity and a subsequent FBI investigation with multiple indictments which resulted in a plea deal with a former HISD trustee, have concerned me greatly. Therefore, I strongly support Commissioner Mike Morath’s decision to install a board of managers for the HISD school district. As the principle author of SB 1365, which restored the A-F accountability system in the 87th Legislative Session, the commissioner could have closed Wheatley High School or installed a board of managers. Commissioner Morath made the right decision by choosing to install a board of managers for the future of the students, families, and staff of HISD.”
Orlando Sanchez, founder of Texas Latino Conservatives:
“I am thrilled the State has come to this decision. It’s high time we put the business of HISD back to educating our children. We have great schools, historic schools. We have great teachers and great parents. What we need is a great board to do their job and administer the District’s business with integrity and transparency, all the while, keeping our future, Houston’s children, first in their priorities.”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, of Texas:
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is in Austin with Admin. Morath and state legislators hoping to delay the announcement of the state takeover of HISD. The Congresswoman is notifying the U.S. Department of Education that this discriminatory takeover may be happening imminently.— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) March 15, 2023
Texas Legislative Black Caucus chairman Ron Reynolds (Missouri City):
“Our goal with meeting with TEA Commissioner Morath was to find a local solution in good faith to address TEA’s concerns with HISD that do not involve taking away local control of the school district from its elected leadership and keeps our kids’ education in focus, especially as they are in the midst of a testing season. We are disappointed to learn that TEA will be moving forward with taking over HISD, a move that will affect over 194,000 students at 276 campuses across the district. If TEA can take over the seventh-largest school district in the nation as a result of one underperforming school, who is to say other districts within the state of Texas won’t be next? Ultimately, we need to be focusing on the best ways to help serve our students and teachers, and a takeover of the school district, which we know has not worked in the past, is not the way to move forward. Research has shown that districts perform worse with test scores and student performance after the takeover of school districts. I invite my colleagues to support HB 3780 and to restore accountability when it comes to the TEA’s ability to take over school districts, because they deserve better, and frankly, the people deserve better.”
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis:
“I’m outraged by the state takeover of Houston ISD—the largest and most diverse school district in the state. This is a brazen power grab rooted in a dangerous ideology that threatens public education, local control and democracy in Texas.”
Texas Republican Gene Wu:
“I am deeply disappointed in the Texas Education Agency’s decision to move forward with the takeover of the Houston Independent School District, in spite of the improvements made by Superintendent Millard House II, our elected school board members, and the HISD administration.
“Despite the fact that the students in my community are overwhelmingly economically disadvantaged, and despite the fact that the majority of these students come from non-English speaking and immigrant backgrounds, the schools in my district have largely received A and B ratings by the TEA, with not one school in my district receiving a failed rating.
“The decision to take over the largest school district in the state of Texas, one with an overall B rating, and to replace our local elected officials with state appointees, is not only deeply disappointing but is an incredibly blatant and shameful political attack by Governor Abbott and Commissioner Morath on Houston parents, educators, and all supporters of public education. Houston residents should strictly hold Governor Abbott responsible if any of our schools should stop improving or regress under TEA’s watch.”
City Council Member Tiffany D. Thomas:
“I am devastated to learn the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is following through with their plans to take over Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school system in Texas.
“As a former public-school trustee, I know first-hand how important it is to have confidence in your local public school system. I am also keenly aware of the inconsistent nature in which the TEA has measured accountability over the years.
“Let me be clear - people who want better schools are not bad people – in fact, I would argue that failing schools need deeper investment and focused attention. To quote Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, a graduate of Phillis J. Wheatley, “we must ask ourselves what is a ‘better’ school and should this be led and managed by non-experts trying to determine the right course of action.”
“I think not.
“In District F, I recommit to working with the leadership of Piney Point, Emerson, Briarmeadow Charter, and Wisdom High School as we work through a new normal.
“I continue to stand with families, school leadership, students, teachers and other advocates in stating this is a dark day for HISD. I want to applaud the work of the elected board members and Superintendent House for bringing 40 out of the 50 schools off the D and F list in this short period of time.”
Senator Borris L. Miles
“TEA Commissioner Mike Morath announced today that the State of Texas would be taking over Houston ISD, and would be appointing a board of managers and a new superintendent.
“This is a terrible day for our public education system. I have been voicing my unwavering opposition to a state takeover of Houston ISD for years. The fact of the matter is that state takeovers of school districts do not work. After a state takes over a school district, the schools do not improve. In fact, they get worse as test scores drop and don’t return to pre-takeover levels until five years later. How many generations of students in the largest school district in Texas will suffer under this disastrous takeover?
“State takeovers of school districts do more harm than good, and they come with a hefty price tag in terms of money, resources and staffing. How does our state’s leadership plan to pay for this incredibly expensive takeover? Is this part of the governor’s presidential campaign to turn our public schools into charter schools, paid for by vouchers?
“This is not over. I will continue fighting for our kids, our hard-working teachers and support staff and the families who will be impacted by this radical change.”
Harris County Democratic Party Executive Director Kylie McNaught:
“This is a blatant attack on the democratic process we have in Texas public education.
“Instead of listening to the experts who have been warning of the consequences of this takeover for years, TEA is steamrolling the will of HISD parents, teachers, and administrators. This takeover is not about the children of Houston, it is about furthering the agenda of Governor Abbott.
“The Texas GOP has shown for years that they care more about diminishing local control and undermining the value of public education. This is exactly what the TEA takeover is about.”
Statement from Elizabeth Santos, District I Trustee:
“When we keep fighting, we win.
“First, we fought the takeover in our boardroom, but the TEA pushed trumped-up accusations and undermined our ability to govern.
“Then, we fought in the courtroom. We won when the courts ordered TEA back down so we could hire a superintendent. We won when we kept democracy alive for five years while our case was litigated. But the legislature changed the rules in the middle of the game, forcing the Texas Supreme Court to pave the way for the takeover.
“Those who would strip us of our democratic voice and sell off our public schools to the highest bidder think they have won. But they forgot that when they evict us from the halls of power, we go to the streets and fight even harder.
“Now we go to the legislature and demand our democracy back. We go to the newspapers, to the airwaves, to social media, and tell everyone in our communities what they are trying to take from us.
“Then we go to the ballot box, educated and angry, and we replace every opponent of democracy and public education with someone who represents our unified voice.
“We will win because we have no choice—our fight is for our children, our communities, and our future.
“The TEA cannot win because sooner or later they will have to reveal the true object of their fight. They want nothing more than to strip our communities of their power. If given the chance, they will steal our buildings and land, the schools that are the hearts of our communities, pumping the life-giving force of education through our streets and into our homes.
“The TEA claims that the elected board will return when the district meets certain “exit criteria.” What are those criteria? TEA won’t say. They have had five years to think it over, but apparently that’s not enough. Why? Because nothing is enough. They will not stop until every one of our public school tax dollars are in the hands of their friends and campaign donors.
“This is not HISD’s fight, it’s everyone’s. Because they will not stop at our district boundaries. We must work in solidarity with communities across the nation and confront the threat to our public schools together. We will follow the path of our great tradition—the relentless pursuit of justice—and we will win.”
Rodolfo Rosales Jr., Texas LULAC State Director:
“The takeover of the Houston Independent School District by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is unwarranted and usurps the power of the local community to elect those who lead HISD. LULAC strongly opposes school district takeovers as undemocratic and illegal. This is Jim Crow 2.0, and we will not go back in time!
LULAC believes this action is politically motivated, not driven by concerns over the academic well-being of our Latino community in Houston. On the contrary, TEA is doing the bidding of the Abbott Administration and its supporters. Supporters of the HISD takeover oppose the empowerment of our youths through accurately teaching our history in the district. Anti-ethnic studies forces across Texas do not want the truth taught about the institutional oppression, discrimination, and injustice targeting Latinos, blacks, and Asians.
Similarly, these groups that support the HISD hijacking oppose the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of individuals who identify with the LGBTQ and transgender communities. The HISD takeover is part of the larger strategy to disenfranchise students of color in Texas by enacting a voucher system that extracts taxpayer funds from public education. Instead, the money will be diverted to charter schools that seek to homogenize and sanitize our public schools. The curriculum in these charter schools is designed to move away from respecting the issues important to all races, ethnicities, and cultures. HISD is the largest takeover in Texas, but likely not the last we will see.”
This story will be updated with reaction as see them published. Come back for the latest reactions and share your own thoughts about the takeover in the comments.