Texas Supreme Court Allows Texas Education Agency to Buy out Houston ISD

From Houston media:

State-appointed managers may replace elected school board members in Texas’ largest county, according to a decision released by the state’s Supreme Court Friday morning.

The judges overturned an appeals court decision that prevented TEA from taking over the county. However, the case is not over. The lower court will hear further arguments.

“There is no basis for extending the trial court’s temporary injunction against the Commissioner’s appointment of a board of governors,” it said.

It is not yet clear if TEA will take advantage of the decision to replace the Houston ISD board.

“TEA is currently reviewing the decision,” the spokesperson wrote.

The Texas Education Agency first attempted to seize control of the Houston Independent School District in 2019. The agency cited the school board’s dysfunction as well as the years TEA deemed unacceptable academic performance at Houston ISD’s Whitley High School.

Citing a 2015 state law, TEA argued that circumstances allowed Education Commissioner Mike Morath to appoint a group of managers to replace elected school board trustees.

While the takeover was put on hold, all but two elected Houston ISD board members left, the board hired a new superintendent, and Whitley High School received a passing grade from TEA.

Trustee Judith Cruz was elected the same week that the 2019 takeover was announced.

“It is important for the public – especially students and their families – to know that school will continue no matter what happens,” she said. “In the event of any change in leadership, all decisions must be made with students in mind and with the least amount of interference.”

TEA stated in court that the changes were irrelevant and that the takeover should be allowed to preserve the agency’s right to take similar actions in the future. Houston ISD argued that TEA committed procedural irregularities in the run-up to the takeover.

The Texas Supreme Court agreed with TEA.

“According to current law, the district’s demands do not support a temporary injunction against the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency and his designated conservative,” the opinion said. “We expect the parties to reconsider their positions and supplement the protocol in the light of changes in legislation and actual events in the district. We are remanding the case to the court of first instance for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.”

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