Houston ISD Avoids Removal of Democratic System, Talks Privatization

Houston ISD will avoid removal of a local democratic system via state sanction for at least one year. Four of the district’s longest-struggling schools met state academic standards this year, according to preliminary results released Wednesday.

The four HISD campuses that made standard to avoid triggering sanctions are Mading and Wesley elementary schools, Woodson PK-8 and Worthing High School. Prior to this year, each of those four had failed to meet standard for four to six consecutive years.

How did we almost lose a democratic system in Houston?

Under HB 1842, if the district has a single school that is on the Improvement Required (IR) list for five consecutive years (IR5), the Texas Education Agency (TEA) can replace the democratically elected board with appointed managers or shut down the school.

The escape hatch? Use SB 1882 to partner IR5 schools with charters, surrendering governance of staff and curriculum, and TEA won’t replace the democratically elected board with appointed managers.

Let’s be clear about what this means…

The ultimatum: Under HB 1842, improve your test scores or TEA will replace your democratically elected board with appointed managers or close the school permanently. Don’t want to give up democracy? Under SB 1882, privatize your failing schools and TEA will leave your district’s democratically elected board alone.

The benefits of SB 1882 include two years off of accountability for the school district, still get ratings but it is not counted against the district, and the school gets extra money for the kids. These are short-term benefits that sound lovely for the price of long-term partnership/charter/privatization of a school.

The HISD board did try to charter 10 public black and brown schools with Energized for STEM Academy in April, but the community fought back resulting in arrests. Since then, six of those campuses received academic accountability waivers due to Hurricane Harvey taking them off the list of privatization.

This left the four campuses that made standard to avoid triggering the removal of a local democratic system: Mading and Wesley elementary schools, Woodson PK-8 and Worthing High School.

RELATED: Houston Chronicle Acts as Propaganda in Regards to School Privatization

Now that the democratically elected HISD board is no longer under the threat of being replaced with appointed managers for 2018, they now have to think about 2019 and using SB 1882 to privatize schools with the included “benefits” of two years off of accountability for the school district, still get ratings but it is not counted against the district, and the school gets extra money for the kids.

Remember: These are short-term benefits that sound lovely for the price of long-term partnership/charter/privatization of a school.

“Yes, we’ve started that conversation: how are we going to approach it as it relates to a partnership, what process we are going to utilize,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board last week. Lathan added that district leaders have not had conversations with any potential partners. This quote is from Houston Chronicle’s article.

Community members, including Indivisible Houston, HISD Parent Advocates, Houston Rising, Black Lives Matter: Houston, Houston Justice Coalition, and SURJ TX have called for suing the TEA for discrimination based on race through the accountability system and over failure to comply to state testing laws.

To learn about how “accountability system” is a form of Orwellian double-speak and how both parties are working to dismantle education, watch this interview with a professor from University of St. Thomas who wrote his dissertation about it.