Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sign reads: Protect public education.

"Something stinks in Texas," writes education historian Diane Ravtich. (Photo: United Federation of Teachers/ Facebook)

Yes, Something Stinks about the State Takeover of the Houston Independent School District

The state officials behind the takeover are vandals, disrupters, corrupters of democracy.

Diane Ravitch

 by Diane Ravitch's Blog

A trio of activists on behalf of public schools wrote a blistering critique of the pending state takeover of the Houston Independent School District, based on the failure of ONE high school that has an unusually high proportion of students who are poor and have disabilities.

Zeph Capo is president of the Houston Federation of Teachers and Texas AFT, James Dixon is pastor of the Community of Faith Church in Houston and a vice president of the Houston Branch of the NAACP, and Hugo Mojica is president of LULAC Education Council #402.

They write:

Residents of this community are increasingly frustrated with the upheaval in the Houston Independent School District. As Houstonians who work directly with the educators, parents and students in the district, we don’t blame them. But something doesn’t add up in the state’s decision to take over HISD.

Houston schools have been on an improvement track for years — the district recently earned a B grade from the state — just two points away from an A. After years of struggle among legislators, administrators and educators to figure out how best to serve our kids, HISD should be celebrating our progress. But instead of cheering parents, educators and students, who came together and turned around the city’s schools, the state slapped our community in the face by announcing this punitive takeover of the entire district.

A byzantine Texas law enables the state to trigger a district takeover — all 283 Houston public schools — if just one school chronically underperforms. So instead of investing in that one school — Wheatley High School, in this case — and providing it the attention and resources it needs, Austin bureaucrats chose to scapegoat and punish the entire city. Given that Houston students just scored second in math and third in reading within their national peer group, HISD seems like it should be a model rather than a takeover target.

The writers might have also mentioned that Houston was the only city to win the Broad award for most improved urban district twice, an honor conferred by the Broad Foundation, which has the same worldview of disruption as the Texas State Board of Education and State Commissioner Mike Morath. Morath previously served on the Dallas board of education but he is not an educator. He is a software developer. He has no ideas about how to improve schools, nor has he ever improved a school.

The authors write:

This political power grab is the epitome of overreaching, but it also reflects an insidious, ongoing effort to deny black and brown communities the educational opportunities their kids deserve. It represents a classist, old-school view of public education that rewards the privileged few and ignores the difficult work that must be done to ensure schools are safe and welcoming and meet the needs of all kids, regardless of geography or demography.

What’s also incredibly disappointing is that this takeover comes on the heels of a democratic election, in which the community elected new school board members. If this untenable takeover proceeds, duly elected trustees won’t get a chance to take their seats, defying the will of the people and denying a voice for those elected to represent the needs of students.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath aren’t actually looking out for Houston’s kids. They want to privatize Texas’ largest school district through a charter scheme. If that happens, this plan will funnel money out of our traditional public schools and into for-profit alternatives. This recent election vote reflected the community’s mandate that Houston public schools continue to invest in evidence-based wraparound services, including health care, before- and after-school programs, and enhanced social and emotional services.

State officials would prefer to privatize rather than invest new resources in a major district that is facing challenges and doing well compared to other urban districts.

Yes, indeed, something stinks in Texas.

The state officials behind the takeover are vandals, disrupters, corrupters of democracy.

They should not be allowed to mess with the HISD.


© 2021 Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools."  Her previous books and articles about American education include: "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,"  "Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform," (Simon & Schuster, 2000); "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn" (Knopf, 2003); "The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know" (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

UN Chief Warns Humanity Is 'Unacceptably Close to Nuclear Annihilation'

"Now is the time to lift the cloud of nuclear conflict for good," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Jake Johnson ·


Coalition Slams UN Food Summit for Peddling 'Corporate-Led False Solutions' to Hunger

"The U.N. has finally made it clear what 'multilateralism' is all about—paying lip service to the people while skewing priorities for the interests of imperialists and monopoly capitalists."

Jake Johnson ·


'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·


'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo