Friday, March 1, 2024

Texas Assumes State Control of Houston’s Failing Schools after Years of Scandal, Low Scores

Move follows four years of threats over allegations of misconduct by school trustees, including inappropriate influencing of vendor contracts, and chronically low academic scores....

(Headline USA) Texas officials on Wednesday announced a state takeover of Houston’s nearly 200,000-student public school district, the eighth-largest in the country, acting on years of threats from the far-left district, which has weathered several scandals and failed to meet educational benchmarks.

The announcement, made by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s education commissioner, amounts to one of the largest school takeovers ever in the U.S.

It also deepens a high-stakes rift between Texas’s largest city, where Democrats wield control locally and state Republican leaders have sought increasing oversight in the wake of election fumbles and pandemic restrictions.

Other big cities including Philadelphia, New Orleans and Detroit in recent decades have gone through state takeovers, which are generally viewed as last resorts for underperforming schools and are often met with community backlash. Critics argue that past outcomes show little improvement following state interventions.

“If we just focus on taking over school districts because they underperform, we would have a lot more takeovers,” said Domingo Morel, a professor of political science and public services at New York University. “But that’s not what happens.”

But proponents say that continuing to throw tax dollars at a failing system only encourages those who should be held accountable to double down with impunity on their failed policies—and, in some cases, corruption.

The state began making moves toward a takeover of the Houston Independent School District in 2019, following allegations of misconduct by school trustees, including inappropriate influencing of vendor contracts, and chronically low academic scores at one of its roughly 50 high schools.

Most of Houston’s school board members have been replaced since 2019.

The district sued to block a takeover, but new education laws subsequently passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and a January ruling from the Texas Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to seize control.

Schools in Houston are not under mayoral control, unlike in cities such as New York or Chicago, but as expectations of a takeover mounted, the city’s Democratic leaders unified in opposition.

The overwhelming majority of students in Houston schools are Hispanic or black.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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