As of Monday afternoon there’s still no word from the TEA about the fate of HISD, so while we wait we ponder what history can teach us. Assuming that history doesn’t contain anything gay or CRT-related so we’re allowed to learn from it, of course.
As rumors of a looming state takeover of the Houston Independent School District cause uncertainty and anxiety for educators and families, many are looking to previous examples of the Texas Education Agency imposing control of local school systems.
There are 15 such instances over the course of three decades, according to state records. None likely offer a case study that would compare to a takeover of HISD, the largest school district in the state and the eighth largest in the nation. Still, some have likened the potential takeover of diverse HISD to that of the other school systems, all of which served predominantly Black and Hispanic student bodies or children from families considered to be “economically disadvantaged.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from HISD teachers asking me for advice,” said Jennifer Jermany, a former North Forest ISD teacher who was laid off when the district was absorbed into HISD. “Our cases are similar, but not exact. My heart really goes out to those teachers because we really don’t know what is going to happen.”
Of the 15 previous state takeovers, four — Kendleton, Wilmer-Hutchins, North Forest and La Marque ISDs — closed entirely after regaining local control. El Paso, Beaumont, Edgewood and Southside ISDs remain open after local control was restored.
Progreso, Pearsall, Hearn, Harlandale and Snyder ISDs each came to a settlement or did not proceed with a board of managers.
Two districts — Marlin ISD and Shepherd ISD — still have a state-appointed board of managers in place.
Seven of those districts were predominantly Black, including multiple districts with schools significant to Texas’ African American history. Another seven of the districts taught mostly Hispanic student bodies. Only one district — Shepherd ISD — was predominantly white. Around 66 percent of students in that district are economically disadvantaged.
Of HISD’s 187,000 students, 62 percent are Hispanic and 22 percent are Black. Nearly 80 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged.
None of the districts previously taken over by TEA come close to comparing in size to HISD. The smallest of those districts, Kendleton ISD, had less than 100 students and the largest, Beaumont ISD, currently has around 17,000.
In the previous takeovers, TEA gave reasons such as financial issues, administrators violating the law, fraudulent test score data, inability of school boards to properly govern, loss of accreditation status and poor academic ratings, among other causes.
See here, here, and here for the background. Beaumont ISD was taken over because of fiscal mismanagement. That at least would be an understandable reason, with clear goals for being returned to local control. Most of the rest of the story is about the takeover of North Forest, which followed a few years later by North Forest being absorbed into HISD. They had serious, long-term issues with their board of trustees, which again is a different issue than what HISD faces. It’s also a reminder that we didn’t have any real mechanism in place at the time to track the former NFISD students as they made their way through HISD. That was long enough ago that I’d expect none of those original students are still in HISD schools. Sure would have been nice to know what their outcomes were, or how those who followed them into HISD have been doing.
Anyway. The one reason why I think HISD might maybe avoid a full takeover is that the TEA cannot possibly be prepared to handle the responsibility of running HISD, even if they outsource it to a board of managers. I don’t think they want it, and I think they will look for an exit ramp. I agree with Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo and many others that politics is at play, and I freely admit I am thinking wishfully when I say stuff like this. It’s what I’ve got, and until the TEA tells us what they’re doing we can at least hope for the best.