In an obvious power move, Texas Republicans announced on Wednesday their plans to take over Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas, which is also majority Black or Hispanic. The state takeover of Houston’s public school district would be one of the largest school takeovers in U.S. history.
The announcement was made by Mike Morath, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s education commissioner and will seek to increase Republican authority.
In a letter to the Houston Independent School District, Morath said the Texas Education Agency will replace Superintendent Millard House II and the district’s elected board of trustees with a new superintendent and an appointed board of managers made of residents from within the district’s boundaries.
Morath said the board has failed to improve student outcomes while conducting “chaotic board meetings marred by infighting” and violating open meetings act and procurement laws. He accused the district of failing to provide proper special education services and of violating state and federal laws with its approach to supporting students with disabilities.
He cited the seven-year record of poor academic performance at one of the district’s roughly 50 high schools, Wheatley High, as well as the poor performance of several other campuses.
“The governing body of a school system bears ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of all students. While the current Board of Trustees has made progress, systemic problems in Houston ISD continue to impact district students,” Morath wrote in his six-page letter.
Many community leaders have opposed plans to takeover Houston Independent School District saying state takeovers of school districts have done little to improve schools. Others have pointed to race as an important issue since most students who will be affected are Hispanic or Black.
“If we just focus on taking over school districts because they underperform, we would have a lot more takeovers,” Domingo Morel, a professor of political science and public services at New York University told AP. “But that’s not what happens.”
The state takeover of Houston public schools is the latest example of predominately white Republicans pushing to take control of minority and Democratic-led cities.
In Mississippi, Republican-controlled House recently passed House Bill 1020, which would not only expand areas of Jackson patrolled by a state-run Capitol Police force but also created a new court system with judges that are appointed rather than elected by voters. All appointments would be handled by white state officials.
A bill in Missouri also seeks to take control of the St. Louis police by appointing four St. Louis police board commissioners to make decisions for the department.
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