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

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.

“We believe that the county has failed to demonstrate that the planned behavior of the commissioner and his guardian violates the law,” the decision reads. “Thus, the county is not entitled to an injunction. However, we are returning the case to the trial court to allow the parties to fully disclose the case in the light of interim legal and factual developments. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeal.” judgment, set aside the temporary injunction and refer the case to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with that opinion.”

It’s 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.

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 Educational Agency and the Conservative appointed by him,” 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 trial court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.”

In a written statement, Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II said the decision “is under review by the HISD legal team.”

“When I first took this position, I clearly saw the challenges our district was facing,” he continued. “As Superintendent, over the past 18 months, my team has been focused on giving each of our students the academic experience they deserve… There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are excited about the progress we have made. district and look forward to the work ahead.

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