Texas Gov Abbott takes over Houston public school district, students 'most in need' neglected

The GOP governor's office also cited in the state's takeover of the Houston Independent School District, poor academic accountability.

Published: March 15, 2023 5:10pm

Updated: March 16, 2023 11:16am

(The Center Square) -

Texas has announced the takeover of the Houston Independent School District – citing such majors issues as poor academic accountability and concerns about the possible violation of state law.

The move by the administration of GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is the latest in a years-long fight between the state and the district of about 200,000 students over poor academic performance and the behavior of trustees. It came at the expiration of an injunction that had prevented the state from acting, Texas officials said Wednesday in announcing the move.

The Texas Education Agency said it would name a new district superintendent and suspend the district’s board of trustees. 

The board of trustees will be replaced by a board of governors appointed by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. State law requires Morath also to appoint a new superintendent. But until he does, the district Superintendent Millard House will remain in the position.

The Texas Supreme Court earlier this year lifted the injunction against the state that had prevented it from intervening in the district through a conservator.

Morath said that the takeover was necessary based on district trustees' actions as well as its failing to improve student achievement.

"In prior years, Houston ISD was governed by a Board of Trustees that did not focus on improving student outcomes," Morath said in his letter to district officials. "Instead, the board conducted chaotic board meetings marred by infighting while Board members routinely exceeded their authority, directing staff in violation of the school laws of Texas.

Morath acknowledged the district had some of the highest-performing schools in the state but its procedures also resulted in in running schools in which the support provided to students was inadequate.

Morath said that some new trustees have tried to make progress, but noted that “academic performance issues require action under state law” and that “systemic problems in Houston ISD continue to impact students most in need of our collective support.”

The state first pushed to remove Houston's school board in 2019, but the district sued.

Morath cited Texas law that allows the state to either close a school campus or appoint a board of managers if a school has continuously low student achievement. 

The district can request an administrative review with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The state is not scheduled to name a superintendent or appoint a board of managers before June 1.

Democratic lawmakers and union leaders were critical of the state takeover, according to the Texas Tribune

Since 1989, at least 22 states have taken over more than 100 public school districts, according to a book on school takeovers.

Critics of takeovers point out that state takeovers may not improve student achievement performance or management.

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