As Houston union files lawsuit to stop a state takeover of HISD, a news report shows how TEA-backed charter schools are falling even further behind in offering special education services

Texas AFT and HFT President Zeph Capo (left) lays out the union’s lawsuit with comments from the four plaintiffs in the case.

The Houston Federation of Teachers Tuesday stepped up its battle against a state takeover of Houston ISD by filing a federal lawsuit against Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency over a violation of voting rights, particularly for people of color. “The state’s action to take over the HISD is flagrantly unconstitutional and has nothing to do with giving kids a strong public education,” said Zeph Capo, president of HFT and Texas AFT. “Gov. Abbott and Mike Morath will do just about anything to give private charter operators a chance to get their hands on our schools—even violate the state and U.S. constitutions. We can’t allow our government officials to unconstitutionally marginalize black and brown children, deny them their right to a quality public education, or defy the voice of voters who have just elected new school board members.”

You can read more about the lawsuit and the four plaintiffs’ comments hereCapo laid out the grounds for the action in a Tuesday press conference with the four HFT-member plaintiffs in the case, and he also stressed that a key motivation of the state takeover is to replace district schools with charter schools under a board of managers cherry-picked by TEA and ready to follow lock step with its agenda for charter proliferation.

Coincidentally, the Houston Chronicle on Monday came out with a special report examining how charters were falling even further behind than their public school counterparts in efforts to serve special education students—in some cases even illegally claiming that they do not need to provide special ed services. Another Chronicle investigation last week​ looks at how all public schools and charters have not significantly increased their evaluations of students to provide needed special education services. The article highlights how TEA’s failure to institute reforms (after being fined and widely criticized for creating an artificial cap on special education services two years ago), and its misinformation to districts has hampered the best efforts of Houston ISD to improve special education services.

“Here you have TEA maintaining that it needs to take over a highly-rated district that is improving in serving special education students, yet its the same agency that is stymying that progress for Houston and the entire state,” Capo said. “The fact that charters are doing a dismal job and shunning students in need of these services makes TEA’s agenda for pushing charter schools even more damaging to the kids in our schools who need the most help.”

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