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Judge blocks state of Texas from taking over Houston district

Jan. 13, 2020
The injunction prevents state education officials from seizing control of the largest district in Texas.

Texas judge has blocked the state from taking over the Houston Independent School District until she issues a final ruling on the case.

The Texas Tribune reports that Travis County District Judge Catherine Mauzy has preliminarily sided with the Houston district, the state's largest school system, in a legal battle that will determine whether Texas education officials can indefinitely seize power from Houston's elected school board.

The Texas Education Agency vowed in a statement to appeal the ruling.

“Any time you are taking on a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, the road to meaningful change is long and arduous, but when the futures of our children are at stake, we will stop at nothing to make sure they are properly provided for,” the agency’s statement say.

In seeking to stop the takeover, lawyers for the Houston district argued that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath exceeded his authority in nearly every step in the process of deciding on a takeover.

The state's lawyers contend that Morath has broad, indisputable authority to seat a board of managers to govern the district, granted under state law. In early November, Morath announced his plans to oust the elected board and appoint a superintendent, citing the longstanding academic failure of Wheatley High School and the school board's alleged violations of state law.

The temporary injunction stops Morath from seating a board or imposing any other sanctions until Mauzy rules on the merits of the Houston distric's lawsuit challenging the takeover.

The trial is set for the morning of June 22, months after the state intended to seat a board of managers.

At a court hearing, lawyers for the Houston district challenged Morath's reasons for the planned takeover. They say Morath inaccurately interpreted state law and skipped procedural steps to get the results he wanted.

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