AUSTIN (KXAN) — Four Texas lawmakers filed legislation Monday to put a stop to the anticipated takeover of the Houston Independent School District by the state’s education agency.
Houston ISD first received notice in 2019 the Texas Education Agency planned to replace its elected school board for at least two years with an appointed board of managers. The decision was in response to alleged education code violations and years of low performance at Phillis Wheatley High School.
The takeover stalled for years after the district sued to keep its school board in place. But a Texas Supreme Court ruling in January cleared the way for TEA officials to move forward with the state intervention.
TEA officials have denied making a final decision, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said publicly last week he heard from lawmakers the move to intervene could happen as soon as this month.
“All I would say is we are still waiting to evaluate the Supreme Court ruling, which has not yet been finalized, to try to discern then what our next required action is under state law,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in front of the Texas House Public Education Committee on Feb. 27. “What we’re going to do is going to be a mandatory action under state law, not a discretionary action.”
The newly proposed bills would change state law to give the TEA options other than replacing the school board and school closure to address performance issues within a district.
The legislation was authored by State Senators Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, Borris Miles, D- Houston, and John Whitmire, D-Houston. State Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, also filed a companion bill.
“Let’s be clear. The agency’s reason for initiating a takeover bid in 2019 is no longer valid. After years of hard work by the students, teachers, parents, and community, Phyllis Wheatley High School joined 94% of HISD schools that earned an A, B, or C in 2022,” said Alvarado. “S.B. 1662 offers the agency options to work collaboratively with HISD to address any current deficiencies instead of subjecting nearly 200,000 students and 27,000 teachers and employees to a takeover.”
Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II addressed the situation during a Mar. 2 board meeting.
“As of today, the district has not received any official notice from the TEA. I remain laser-focused on fulfilling my duties as Superintendent alongside our Board of Trustees to provide the best possible educational outcomes for all HISD students. My team and I will continue to implement our community-informed strategic plan, which is delivering results for HISD students and families,” Supt. House said.