Texas Education Agency Will Take Control of Houston ISD in June After Weeks of Speculation

With 76 schools and an enrollment of nearly 200,000 students, Houston ISD will now be the largest district the agency has taken over since 2000


The Texas Education Agency is moving forward with a takeover of the state’s largest school district making it the largest district takeover since 2000.

The Texas Tribune reported after weeks of speculation and a prolonged legal battle, the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday confirmed it’s removing Houston Independent School District’s democratically elected school board and superintendent, effectively putting the state in charge.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath sent a letter to the Houston ISD Board of Trustees Wednesday morning after meeting with Houston-area state lawmakers at the capitol, notifying them of the agency’s intent.

“The goal here is to let what is great about Houston continue to be great, but where there are places where students have for far too long gone without the sort of structure of support that they need,” Morath told KPRC 2 News. “The system of Houston ISD seems to allow campuses to go many, many years without seeing performance.”

The TEA will appoint a “board of managers” and replace Superintendent Millard House II and the current school board after June 1. The move is in response to years of poor academic outcomes at a single high school in the district, which TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said requires his agency to either close that campus or appoint a new board to oversee the district.

“Even with a delay of three full years caused by legal proceedings, systemic problems in Houston ISD continue to impact students most in need of our collective support,” Morath wrote in a letter to district leaders Wednesday.

The managers will have the powers and duties of the elected board and must live inside the boundaries of HISD. Current board members will temporarily lose authority but will be invited to serve in an advisory capacity. School board elections will continue.

The state’s takeover attempt started in 2019 after seven consecutive unacceptable ratings at HISD’s Wheatley High School and 50 HISD schools receiving D or F grades.

While Morath acknowledged the district has gotten better and there have been improvements since then, he said the law requires him to act.

Under current state law, the TEA commissioner, who is appointed by the governor, has to take action when a campus has five consecutive years of unacceptable ratings. The law allows only two remedies: closing a campus or appointing a board of managers.

When the TEA attempted to take over in 2019, HISD sued to stop the intervention. After years of court action, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a mandate and reversed a lower court’s ruling that blocked the takeover and gave the TEA the green light to move forward under the authority currently offered by state law.

Documents first reported by The Texas Tribune on Tuesday night show the agency had been getting ready to appoint new leaders. Before taking down the documents from its website, the agency posted job applications for the new board of managers, which would replace the current school board.

Houston ISD, with 76 schools and an enrollment of nearly 200,000 students, will now be the largest district the agency has taken over since 2000, when it first placed a board of managers to oversee a struggling school district.

The TEA commissioner decides how long the board is in place. Usually, these sorts of takeovers last two to six years.

The Texas Tribune and KPRC contributed to this report.

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