Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Houston Independent School District a "longtime failure," as education officials announced they will take over control of the largest school district in the state. File Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE
March 15 (UPI) -- Education officials in Texas have seized control of the largest school district in the state and will replace the leaders of the Houston Independent School District with a new superintendent and board.
The Texas Education Agency announced the intervention Wednesday, saying it was abiding by state law, which allows it to remove the board of those districts where schools are failing to meet certain standards.
The takeover is "troubling, but it's not unexpected," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath explained the state's legal grounds in a letter to HISD Superintendent Millard House II and district officials, while calling out the past board for "chaotic meetings" where members "exceeded their authority."
"There has been a longtime failure by HISD and the victims of the failure are the students," Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.
We will "come together and reinvent HISD in a way that will ensure that we are providing the best possible education for those kids," Abbott said as he denied allegations that the takeover is related to his push for school vouchers.
Democrats in the Texas House argued that Houston's school district was set up to fail due to insufficient state support and a lack of critical funding.
"We believe that this is an attempt to push vouchers, to push charter schools. To promote and perpetuate the things that Gov. Abbott believes and hears about, and that obviously isn't diversity, equity and inclusion," Rep. Ron Reynolds, a Houston Democrat, told reporters Wednesday.
"TEA has taken over districts in the past and it's been unsuccessful, and now they're going to experiment with the seventh largest school district in the nation, the largest school district in Texas," Reynolds added.
The Texas Education Agency will replace Houston ISD's nine-person elected board with a state-appointed board of managers and a new superintendent by June 1.
"I'm also told that they've already decided who the superintendent is going to be, and that decision has been made," Turner told reporters in an interview shared by the city of Houston.
"So this process has been without transparency, with no community engagement. They haven't even talked to the parents," Turner said.