Rep. Harold Dutton uses children to retaliate against his peers

Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr.

Bills aiming for easier state takeovers of school districts in limbo

Two bills that would give an enormous amount of authority to the unelected commissioner of education to take over elected school boards are in limbo after fierce opposition from public education advocates last week.

HB 3270 (Harold Dutton, D-Houston)—the bill targeting Houston ISD for state takeover—would circumvent all the courts to more easily allow TEA to take over any elected school board in Texas. The bill was heard on the House floor last Thursday, where Rep. Alma Allen of Houston killed the bill with a point of order. However, the story didn’t end there.

Dutton, who chairs the House Public Education Committee, held a committee meeting Friday morning and chided his fellow Democrats for killing his bill the day before. To make clear the point, he brought back another bill for consideration—SB 29 on transgender youth in school sports—which already had been defeated in his committee. That bill would discriminate against transgender students by forcing them to “compete in sports associated with their biological sex as determined at or near birth.”  Dutton told his peers that because HB 3270 had been killed on a point of order, he would be retaliating by bringing back SB 29 (and he subsequently voted in favor of the bill). The House did not broadcast the meeting, but Dutton’s comments were videotaped.

“When you come after children you cross the line,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo said in a statement to the media Friday. “Chairman Dutton’s bullying of educators, Texas children, and his fellow legislators needs to stop today. Shame on him for using trans children as a political balm to salve his wounded pride. From voting for more guns to more high-stakes tests to more state takeovers to more discrimination, Harold Dutton has been wrong on issue after issue, session after session.”

At the same meeting Friday, Dutton brought the senate companion to HB 3270—SB 1365—up for a vote, but it failed to pass. Dutton then decided to hold a revote during the lunch hour and SB 1365 passed when a committee member flipped his vote. The bill now heads to calendars and could be on the floor soon. So there’s still a need to speak out against these bills, which you can do here with an online letter—or Twitter users can send a tweet here.