Many are waiting to hear what will happen to the Houston Independent School District (HISD), as the Texas Education Agency (TEA) comes closer to taking over the district. There is no official date on when the takeover will take place, and Mayor Turner said, “To create this uncertainty, especially at a time when kids are about to take their exams, it is not fair to the students, or to the teachers, or to the parents, and quite frankly to this community as well.”
TEA has made no comments regarding the matter, which continues to leave the community and students facing unknown territory. Although progress has been made under Superintendent House’s leadership, who stepped in the role with tremendous challenges, a takeover is needed to ensure HISD receives the resources and tools they need for our students to be successful. HISD has had problems for many years and if this is how we save the district and turn it around for good, then the takeover needs to happen. According to Strategic Partnerships, “By law, TEA has the ability to take over a school district or charter school due to problems with finances, governance, academics or health and security. Prior to the 2015 legislative session, the law only allowed the TEA to take over a district for two years, but with the passage of House Bill 3106, a takeover can last beyond those two years.
Since 2019, the TEA has kept HISD under their radar after “allegations of misconduct by trustees and years of low academic performance at Phillis Wheatley High School – one of the district’s 276 schools.” Although progress has been made since then, the district is still not performing where it should be. If the takeover follows through, it will impact hundreds of students, making it the largest takeover to happen. This will not be the first time the TEA has taken over a district in Texas as this has happened in Beaumont and El Paso, just to name a few.
Most of the issues with education stem from a historic case in 1954 known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. This Supreme Court case ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. This ruling came after the “separate but equal ruling” in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that deemed racially segregated public facilities legal. But we were never equal, and our communities have always lacked the adequate resources that have been needed to thrive.
Integration hurt our communities and did more harm than good as it tore our communities apart and even when legal segregation ended, nothing changed. Some of our communities haven’t been the same since. Black people did not have equal facilities like White folks did. Black schools were still not up to par like White schools. Despite this, our communities and schools have done the best we could with what we have. So even though the Brown v. Board of Education case made the ruling of segregation illegal, segregation still occurred across the nation and even took decades in some places before they started their desegregation process.
It was in 1968 when United States District Court Judge Ben C. Connally ordered HISD to desegregate. The transformation did not happen right away and even took years until anything happened. According to Texas Archive, it wasn’t until 1969 that the Department of Justice stepped in to address the issue. HISD had also implemented the creation of a new school that would have a “balanced faculty.” This was the first school during that time to exist in the South. HISD took decades to integrate its schools, and one source mentioned how the questions of “de facto remain.”
De facto segregation is a term that was used in the 1960s and has been defined by Cornell University as a term used to describe “a situation in which legislation did not overtly segregate students by race but nevertheless school segregation continued.” Sometimes segregation occurs naturally due to different factors outside of race like socioeconomic status for an example.
So, what do our schools look like today? According to The Century Foundation, “Nationwide, two out of five Black and Latinx students attend schools where more than 90 percent of their classmates are non-White, while one in five White students attends a school where more than 90 percent of students are also White.” This shows that our schools are still segregated and unequal.
As the largest school district in Texas and the eighth largest school district in the United States, HISD serves approximately 187,000 students. Out of those students, 62.01% are Hispanic, 22.19% are African American, 4.45% are Asian, and 9.951% are White. A TEA takeover would greatly impact the district and the communities it serves, but the benefits could outweigh the cost. TEA can pump needed funds and resources to help build a stronger foundation that will stand for many generations to come. It can also provide an equitable learning environment that will positively impact all students.
Additionally, another potential takeover could happen with Dallas Independent School District (DISD). According to the Dallas Express, “The district’s latest accountability report found that almost 20% of its Class of 2022 failed to graduate in four years. Furthermore, only 41% of DISD students scored at grade level on last year’s STAAR exams.” Both HISD and DISD have struggled over the years regarding student success. However, HISD has managed to make significant progress while DISD shows opposite trends. One of the questions that has not been answered is, why are students not successful? Why are our students falling behind and not meeting state expectations? More of a conversation is needed to address the concerns of our future. The decisions made in the potential HISD takeover could set the precedent for the outcome of DISD. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Let’s do what needs to be done for our children and our communities.