Civil Rights Organizations Complain To The Government Over Texas Taking Control Of Houston ISD

In response to the Texas Education Agency’s intention to replace the democratically elected school board of the Houston Independent School District, civil rights organizations have filed a federal complaint on behalf of several parents, arguing that the move violates the right of Houston voters of color to elect their own school officials.

The U.S. received the complaint. A claim that the state’s takeover violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution was made to the Department of Justice on Friday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Houston NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. Constitution.

In a news release announcing the case, Ashley Harris, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, stated that “the state takeover is not about public education but about political control of an almost totally Black and Brown student body in one of the country’s most diverse cities.”

The complaint asserts that without any mechanisms for voters to hold the TEA and its chosen board members responsible, the organization might exercise “indefinite control” over Houston ISD.

“So many Houston voters like me who canvass for candidates we care about and take our local elections seriously find the state takeover to be demeaning. One of the Houston ISD parents represented in the complaint, Audrey Nath, stated that it appears that our option was never important in the first place.

A request for comment from the TEA did not receive a prompt response.

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The biggest district the organization has taken over is Houston ISD, which has 276 schools and almost 200,000 pupils enrolled.

As agency representatives did not accept any questions during their initial community meeting regarding the takeover, some families are concerned that communication with the TEA over the district’s management will be inadequate.

In response to years of subpar academic results, the TEA declared on March 15 that it would replace the district’s incumbent superintendent, Millard House II, and the school board with its own “board of management.”

After Phillis Wheatley High School achieved failing marks in the TEA’s accountability rating system for five consecutive years, the takeover was initiated in 2019. The TEA did not take any action until this year as a result of a court injunction.

According to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, a 2015 state statute requires him to either close the underperforming school or establish a new board of administrators, effectively assuming control of the entire district.

The commissioner selects the duration of the board’s existence. In the past, the agency has taken control of other districts for an average of two to six years.

For its board of management, which will begin meeting on June 1, TEA is looking for nine district residents.

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