Board statement on HISD takeover by the TEA

Statement by the Board Regarding the Takeover of Houston Independent School District by the Texas Education Agency in March, 2023

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston stands in solidarity with those opposing the unjustified takeover of the Houston ISD.   While our state leaders preach the decentralization of power from the federal to the state level, they hypocritically pursue efforts to subvert local political control—in this case a democratically-elected Independent School District.  Our local school board is to be replaced by state-appointed managers who will wield enormous power over school budgets, decisions about school closures, the relationships between charter schools and traditional public schools, and other substantive decisions.  Parents, teachers, and voters of Houston will have had no voice in the selection or the actions of these state-appointed managers.  As Mayor Sylvester Turner has been quoted:  You cannot run school districts, cities, and counties from Austin.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath has cited the F rating of one  high school (Wheatley) and alleged dysfunctionality of district leadership.  Yet the rating of Wheatley High School since the pandemic has risen to a C state accountability rating.  HISD earned an overall B rating in 2022, with a score higher than 611 other Texas districts, including Dallas.  Local control is working.  

State takeovers have never been successful—and have overwhelmingly focused on communities of color.  Notable political scientist Domingo Morel has examined more than 100 similar situations of states assuming control of local, democratically elected, and independent school districts.  Measures of academic progress have not improved (and at times digressed) and financial situations have not become better (with reports of more wasteful spending).  The takeovers are not only disruptive and demoralizing, but also diminish the hard-won political power of marginalized groups in urban areas.

The TEA hostile takeover is undemocratic, counter-productive, and politically-motivated.  Houston prides itself on being a diverse, open, and compassionate city.  To quote the Texas ACLU:  The state takeover of HISD is not about public education — it’s about political control of a 90 percent Black and brown student body in one of the country’s most diverse cities. And it’s not what our students and teachers need.