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Texas Education Agency takes control of Houston school district

March 15, 2023
The school board of the largest district in Texas will be replaced by state-appointed managers, and the superintendent will be removed.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has announced that it is taking over operations of the Houston Independent School District, the state's largest school system.

Houston Public Media reports that the TEA will appoint managers to take the place of the Houston's elected school board. 

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath Houston Superintendent Millard House II as "a student-focused man of integrity," but said he also will be replaced.

In a letter to the Houston district, Morath said that although the district has taken steps to improve operations, the changes were not enough to ward off a state takeover.

"I recognize that several members of the Board of Trustees have been newly elected since 2019 and that current Board members, individually and as a team, have tried to make progress since then," Morath wrote. "...But prior academic performance issues continue to require action under state law. Even with a delay of three full years caused by legal proceedings, systemic problems in Houston ISD continue to impact students most in need of our collective support."

The state has been trying to seize control of the Houston district for several years.

In 2019, the TEA pointed to Wheatley High School, which failed to meet state standards, as well as dysfunctional district leadership, as reasons to intervene and assume control of the district. The takeover was stalled by legal challenges, until the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in TEA's favor and threw out an injunction that was blocking the takeover.

Opponents of the takeover argue that Houston has made immense progress since 2018-19. The majority of the school board members from that time are no longer on the board, the district hired a new superintendent, and Wheatley received a passing accountability rating.

House, the outgoing superintendent issued a statement highlighting the district-wide improvement.

“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,” he wrote. “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,” House continued. “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.”

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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