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Houston leaders react to looming HISD takeover

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) was among the chorus of prominent Houston community leaders to condemn news of a possible state intevention in the district.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) has called for a federal investigation into the state's takeover. 

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has called for a federal investigation into the Texas Education Agency (TEA) after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Wednesday the state department could take over the Houston Independent School District as early as next week.

In a Wednesday statement, Lee called the TEA takeover “unnecessary, unfair and discriminatory” and said she has had a conversation with the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Her statement came after Turner broke the news at a Houston City Council meeting alongside council members who agreed the takeover would be an overreach of local government.  According to Turner, the state is poised to replace the HISD Board of Trustees and Superintendent Millard House II with state-appointed officials that do not have a disclosed term limit.

The incoming takeover has stirred mixed reviews from the Houston community, where some see it as an overreach while others see the move as inevitable. In February, local organizations, including Community Voices for Public Education, (CVPE) rallied against a January Texas Supreme Court ruling that opened the door for TEA to take over HISD.

At the rally, Houston community members, including HISD educators, teachers, and parents, said they believe the district is moving in the right direction and need funding more than anything.

In addition to organizing, CVPE also said plans to deliver a petition to state lawmakers in the legislative session.

“This is about profits and politics and not about kids,” said Ruth Kravetz, Community Voices for Public Education founder. “I know that HISD has made some missteps, but it happens to be B-rated, triple bond rated, and even if I don’t love every member of the board, they’re elected, and you can vote them out.”

Kravetz also said she sees the TEA takeover as a political move because state officials are basing the move on an older reputation that doesn’t reflect the current state of operations.

“If the governor really cared about our kids, he would fund our schools more and support them,” Kravetz added.

On the other hand, other local groups like Good Reason Houston, an organization that focuses on improving education for students, according to their website, said they don’t have a position on the takeover but will work with whoever leads the board.

“Our organization exists to support Houston area public school districts, including the current administration of HISD – and whomever that may ultimately be – especially given that there are 70,000 students attending schools in HISD that are not improving fast enough to prepare them to thrive in the Houston of tomorrow.”

Houston education advocate Gerry Monroe, a staunch critic of House’s leadership of HISD, called the takeover “karma” for a school district he believes has failed Houston students for years—though he’s not bullish on TEA’s ability to improve district outcomes.


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