‘Stand Up, Fight Back’: Houston Educators, Parents Rally Against TEA Takeover as Questions Go Unanswered

Left, AFT President Randi Weingarten, U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, and HESP President Wretha Thomas with Houston ISD students; right, Texas AFT members listen to speakers at the Friday rally. 

On Friday, Houston Federation of Teachers and Houston Educational Support Personnel members rallied with community members and AFT President Randi Weingarten against the Texas Education Agency’s planned takeover of Houston ISD

Friday was a holiday for district students and employees, commemorating the work of labor activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Fittingly, the community’s march and rally took place at Cesar Chavez High School. 

A full roster of speakers and participants — including U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Rep. Al Green, state Rep. Ron Reynolds, and state Rep. Jon Rosenthal — gathered to denounce TEA’s ouster of HISD’s democratically elected school board. 

“When education is under attack, what do we do?” said Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, at the event. “Stand up, fight back.”

TEA hosted its final two community meetings in Houston this week. They were roughly as useful as the first two. Education Commissioner Mike Morath did not attend any of the meetings, ensuring a popular refrain among parents, educators, and community members: “Where is Mike Morath?”

Well, this week, we had an answer: meeting with the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board. In a broad discussion, Morath talked about his vision for the future of Houston ISD. But as for the specifics many parents and educators have been asking for at community meetings? He did not provide much in the way of details on the length of the takeover, the role of the board of managers, or how students and schools across the district will be affected. 

Morath did confirm that he had no plans to retain current HISD Superintendent Millard House II, popular among both school employees and parents in the district for the academic progress he has spearheaded and the historic raises he supported last year. 

“Here you have a district that was starting to move forward with a superintendent people liked and a board that was getting along,” Weingarten said in her remarks at the Friday rally. “And then they throw a monkey wrench in. How is that helping kids?” 
In another development Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging that TEA is violating the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by replacing Houston ISD’s elected board.