Education Empowerment

Should Texas Takeover Houston ISD?

The Texas Education Agency is taking over the Houston Independent School District (ISD), but should they?

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is similar to the State Board of Education in Utah. It is the state-level authority when it comes to education for Texas. 

Legally, TEA has the authority to take over any public school district in the state. The Texas State Constitution specifies this in Article 7 Section 1 stating that the legislature must provide the “support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

There is precedent for a state doing this. And there are legitimate complaints about the direction of Houston ISD based upon state law and standards.  According to some of the reports, Houston ISD has been negligent in the support that it provides to students with disabilities. Other accusations include violations of open meetings laws and poor student outcomes.

What does changing out an entire board and superintendent actually accomplish? Will the change actually change what happens in the classrooms across the district? Will a new set of elected officials and bureaucrats be much different from the original ones?

Groups like the Americans for Civil Liberties (ACLU) and the Texas teachers’ unions oppose the action. They say that this is about politics since the school board members are Democrats and the state legislature is largely Republicans. They argue that the state is taking local control away from the school district for their own political power. They call it an exploitation of the 90 percent Black and Brown population of the district.

The entire event begs the question, should the state even set standards for what should or should not be taught? Probably not. Instead, the state should trust parents and students to find the education best suited to their learning styles or needs. 

Is there anything more local than an individual parent and student deciding where and how their child should be educated?

Having set standards for what should or should not be taught in schools is polarizing and often leaves one side feeling attacked. The Utah Legislature passed a resolution in 2021 that led to the banning of critical race theory in schools. If you lean left, you probably disagree with this action. California has a law that requires schools to provide lessons and materials about the roles and contributions of the LGBTQ community. If you lean right, you probably disagree with this requirement. 

The state’s role is to ensure parents and students have choices. Dictating standards and taking over districts leads to polarization in our communities.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. 

I want schools that provide curriculum and perspectives from both sides of the political spectrum. I want religious and secular schools. I want schools that ask for pronouns and schools that don’t. I want classical schools, Montessori schools and Acton Academies. I want schools that rely heavily on technology and those that spend as much time as possible outside without any technology. I want schools that are five days a week with set schedules and schools that are completely learner driven where students set their own schedules.

Paraphrasing Adam Peshek, I can support a system that allows all of these schools to exist, without supporting the particular school itself. 

But in order for this to be a reality, you and I must trust parents to decide what is considered an “acceptable” education.