Latest Battle Between Blue Cities And Red States

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A Texas state agency will take over Houston school district authority because of poor performance, but some experts believe school takeovers do more harm than good.

Important facts

The Texas Education Agency (the state agency that oversees elementary and secondary education) on Wednesday announced plans to take over the Houston Independent School District.

The TEA will use unnamed state-appointed managers in place of the elected school board members and superintendent, though they will finish the school year and state officials won’t take office until June 1 at the earliest.

The district was first notified of the acquisition in 2019 — the state commissioner of education cited seven consecutive years of underperforming at Wheatley High School and a special investigation that found several board members had violated state regulations as reasons for the acquisition.

However, with an overall rating of “B” and a score of 88 on the state grading scale, HISD isn’t the worst — the Dallas Independent School District has a score of 86 and the San Antonio School District scored 85.

HISD is the largest school district in Texas and the eighth largest district in the country with approximately 200,000 students, 276 schools, and a racial makeup of 61.7% Hispanic students, 22.4% Black students, and 9.6% White students.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott supports the decision and said so Houston Chronicle It will ensure Houston schools “no longer let their students down.”

main critic

Democratic officials oppose the takeover, Rep. Ron Reynolds told the Houston Chronicle This was an attempt to promote what Abbott believes in, which Reynolds believes in, “push charter schools forward” and school vouchers, not “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Abbott has expressed support for allowing Texas residents to use taxpayer money to send students to non-public schools, a process known as “school choice,” which uses state-sponsored scholarships (or school vouchers) to send children to private or send to charter schools. Some organizations, such as the National Educator’s Association, are concerned about the harm charter schools can cause to public schools, citing reasons such as the drain of funds from public schools because charters are publicly funded and increased segregation by race and income.

key background

There are over 10,000 school districts in the country and there have only been “about 110 government takeovers,” Domingo Morel, associate professor of political science and public service at New York University, told CNN. New Jersey was the first state to take over schools and recently restored authority to the school district in 2022, ending a 33-year streak. Around 33 states have enacted laws allowing the takeover of public school districts that did not meet the assessment requirements. However, a 2017 study showed that state acquisition in Tennessee did not improve student performance, suggesting it is possible to improve schools without removing them from school district jurisdiction. Michigan officials placed Detroit Public Schools under the oversight of an emergency manager from 1999 to 2016, but a 2019 report found that wasteful government spending and mismanagement of education services and schools cost an estimated $610 million. Morel’s book, Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy, found that about 85% of school takeovers occurred in predominantly Black and Hispanic school districts.


This takeover is another example of white Republican-appointed officials trying to gain control of Democratic cities with predominantly Black and Brown populations and leaders. In Mississippi, Republican lawmakers are trying to extend the jurisdiction of the state-run Capitol Police to Jackson, Mississippi, a predominantly black city. Both the House of Representatives and the Mississippi Senate have passed separate bills on the issue and will iron out the legislation in the coming weeks as the 2023 legislative session nears the end. The reason for the expansion, lawmakers noted, is Jackson, Mississippi’s high crime rates. In 2021, the city had a record-breaking 155 homicides, resulting in a homicide rate of 97.6 homicides per 100,000 people. This shattered St. Louis’ record of 87 homicides per 100,000 people. Similarly, in the majority-Black city of Mason, Tennessee, local officials, with help from the NAACP, filed a lawsuit against the state’s white, Republican comptroller after he took steps to take over the city’s finances in March 2022. The lawsuit alleges that there were unfair requirements in the Comptroller’s financial correction plan and that he racially discriminated against the city. However, the city dismissed the lawsuit after reaching an agreement with the Comptroller to raise the minimum state approval requirement for city spending from $100 to $1,000, giving the city more leeway in its spending, according to ABC 24 .

Continue reading

State Education Commissioner wants to take over HISD and replace entire elected school board (Houston Public Media)

Texas Education Agency Announces Acquisition of Houston Independent School District (Houston Public Media)

Black-majority city of Mason reaches settlement with Tennessee General Accounting Office over city finances (ABC 24)

NAACP files lawsuit against Tennessee Comptroller, alleging threat to take majority – black city is discriminatory (CNN)

House revitalizes state police expansion and bitter battle to ‘take over’ Jackson (Mississippi Today)

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