Among the largest school districts in Texas and the nation, Houston Independent School District, said Wednesday that it will replace its leaders with a new board appointed by the state commissioner of education, raising concerns over whether the new board will reflect the city's ethnic and racial diversity and political priorities.
After a year-long dispute with the district over a law allowing the state to remove school board members that fail to meet certain state standards, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state education commissioner last week. In a statement, the Texas Education Agency said it would replace the board members and superintendent in the next few months.
This is yet another recent case in which White, Republican-appointed state officials are attempting to muscle their way into control of predominately Black local municipalities including Jackson, Mississippi, and Mason, Tennessee.
A White Republican governor appointed Texas' education chief, while Houston schools' students are 60% Hispanic, 25% Black, 10% White and 4% Asian. The city's mayor is a Democrat.
According to Mayor Sylvester Turner, who does not oversee the city's public schools, the takeover is "troubling, but it's not unexpected."
Educators in the state are livid about the decision made by the Texas Education Agency. According to Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, the Texas Education Agency "has lost all space to judge or act as a model for the rest of us."
“The state and its officials will now be responsible for more than 180,000 students, and 25,000 school employees,” Capo said. “For their sake, I have no choice at this point but to wish them well and hope that they succeed. But make no mistake, we will watch every move.”
There is reasonable cause for concern about this new decision by the state of Texas to take over HISD, a predominately Black and Brown school district. A government that does not value the history of Black and Brown people will only succeed in erasing it from school curriculums by enforcing paternalism over their education.