Houston ISD's independence remains in limbo following Texas Supreme Court ruling

The legal fight began in 2019 when the Texas Education Agency released a report announcing its intent for a state takeover.

Shelley Childers Image
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
HISD's independence remains in limbo following TX Supreme Court ruling
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The independence of the state's largest school district remains in limbo following an opinion ruling from the Texas Supreme Court last Friday, siding with the Texas Education Agency, which has long been vying to take over Houston Independent School District.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The independence of the state's largest school district remains in limbo following an opinion ruling from the Texas Supreme Court last Friday.

The court sided with the Texas Education Agency, which has long been vying to take over Houston Independent School District.

While it was a win for the TEA, the case will continue to play out in a lower court.

The legal fight began in 2019 when the TEA released a 34-page report announcing its intent for a state takeover.

RELATED: Texas Supreme Court clears way for state's education agency to take over Houston ISD

By the winter of 2019, it was officially a legal battle.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court sided in favor with the TEA, which could mean a state-appointed conservator to essentially replace the superintendent and a state-appointed board of managers would replace the elected school board.

These are issues that leave HISD parents, like Troy Griffin, angry.

"No matter how you slice it, when people are appointed and not elected, there's less accountability," Griffin said.

Duncan Klussmann, University of Houston's College of Education assistant clinical professor and former Spring Branch ISD superintendent, says the TEA's potential takeover comes after a recent law allowed the state to intervene for poor academic performance.

"In 2015, House Bill 1842 established (a state takeover can happen) based on academic performance," Griffin said. "If one campus in any school district in the state of Texas had four or five years of low performance, the commissioner could either come in and close the campus or appoint a board of managers."

In 2019, Wheatley High School suffered several years of poor performance.

SEE ALSO: HISD's Wheatley High School receives passing grade for 1st time in 8 years

And after a highly dysfunctional school board meeting made headlines with bitter in-fighting, the state announced its intentions.

But, public education advocates argue HISD has transformed in the last three years.

"Looking at what they've done since Millard House has been there, it's definitely been in a positive direction," Griffin said.

There is a new permanent superintendent in Millard House, nearly an entirely new school board, and Wheatley High School has improved its state grade.

The TEA responded to our questions about the future saying, "TEA continues to review the Supreme Court's decision in order to determine next steps that best support the students, teachers, parents, and school community of the Houston Independent School District."

"Now it's going to be an interesting aspect of how does the commissioner move forward now that some of these issues have already been addressed in the system," Klussmann said, referring to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, who has been spearheading the effort to take over HISD.

HISD says students will continue learning as usual and the district as a whole will continue its focus on the future.

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SEE ALSO: State ratings are out: Where does your school or district fall?