The state of Texas took control of 85 schools within the Houston school district, most of which are majority Latino or Black.
The move homogenized curriculum, turned some school libraries into discipline centers, and removed or reassigned teachers and librarians.
The state claims it had to make the abrupt and aggressive intrusion to rescue the schoolchildren in the district, whose student population is 62 percent Latino and 22 percent Black, from years of education failure that leaves many illiterate or behind in math.
The Houston Independent School District takeover was triggered by a 2015 law that was crafted by Black Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., after two of the district’s high schools failed repeatedly to score beyond a C in state academic evaluations.
The Battle Over Teaching Race in Schools
The state-appointed superintendent, Mike Miles, calls the system the New Education System model. It is a wholescale system reform that supposedly maximizes the time and resources that schools have to support children’s learning.
Miles is repeating the same regimented education style he used when he was CEO and founder of Third Future charter schools at HISD. He has championed "wholescale change" by starting with a few schools and using them as "proof points" to expand to other schools.
The model uses the first 45 minutes for a lesson, followed by a five-question quiz that is supposed to allow teachers to determine the students who need to stay behind for more instruction and those who go to the converted libraries referred to “team centers” to do advanced work. Librarians in some of those schools were replaced with “learning coaches.”
In state-controlled schools, teachers were told to conform to a new, rigid curriculum and instruction methods, or they will be replaced.
Stripping the pieces of an already under-resourced Latino and Black public schools in the district, even those that were earning high performance marks, is reminiscent of practices of separate and unequal education for Latino and Black children in the state.
“The problems that created educational inequities can’t be solved by one element,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEEF, told NBC. “You need comprehensive attention, resources, monitoring. To turn a school, much less a district. That takes resources and that’s the real problem, these overwhelmingly Black and brown districts are starved of resources.”
According to Saenz, the conversion of some of the schools’ libraries and removal of their librarians have created a situation that is “certainly inequitable” and “probably unlawful.” Through school choice plans, gerrymandered districts, transfer policies, neighborhood schools, public infrastructure, and housing regulation and zoning plans, the state is intentionally institutionalizing segregated schools.
“There’s no reason for Houston school district to have such a significant deviation between schools,” he continued. “A school district that has one budget, one governing body, one superintendent, should ensure that every school at a particular level, every high school, every middle school, every elementary school has the same services, the same access. And that’s what this does not provide.”
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