The state of Texas is taking control of the Houston Independent School District, officials announced Wednesday.
This is the largest school district in Texas, with close to 200,000 students. The district's current board said a new superintendent and board comprised of local residents will be installed by the Texas Education Agency "in the next few months."
Under Texas law, if schools are not meeting certain standards, the state can remove a district's board of directors. Texas first indicated it wanted to take over the district in 2019, following allegations of misconduct against school trustees and low academic performance at Houston's Wheatley High School.
In a letter to the Houston Independent School District, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath wrote that "the governing body of a school system bears ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of all students. While the current Board of Trustees has made progress, systemic problems in Houston ISD continue to impact district students."
The Texas State Teachers Association and American Civil Liberties Union of Texas have spoken out against the move, which furthers the rift between Republican state leaders and Democratic officials in Houston, The Associated Press reports. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called the takeover "troubling," but "not unexpected," while Texas state Rep. Armando Walle (D) said it is imperative that more money get to public schools and teacher pay is increased.
"We acknowledge that there's been underperformance in the past, mainly due to that severe underfunding in our public schools," he stated.
Looking at information from an annual Census Bureau survey of public school funding, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University found that in 2020, Texas spent $10,342 per student — more than $3,000 less than the national average.