Let’s celebrate our success before lamenting the death of democracy In HISD

For Immediate Release:  Aug. 15, 2019
Contact: Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343

Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT and the Houston Federation of Teachers, commented today on the release of state accountability ratings for schools and the possibility of unfair and undemocratic state sanctions for Houston ISD:

Before we turn to the absurdity of the state taking over control of an entire district based on one school’s ratings, let’s take a few minutes to celebrate what we have accomplished:

  1. Kashmere High School has received a “C” rating and is no longer rated Improvement Required. Despite our differences with the School Board and administration, we’re proud that our Board, administration, teachers, students and community members were able to do over the past few years what others couldn’t in more than a decade.
  2. HISD has a district composite score of 88 and is rated a “B” academically. This score is two points away from an “A” and is two points higher than Dallas ISD, the test-and-punish district to which we are consistently compared.
  3. Progress was made across the district despite lagging scores for high schools that include test scores for a year of dealing with the disaster of Hurricane Harvey.

Every elected official who voted for HB 1842—which set mandated sanctions of school closures or state takeover of school boards—should be held accountable for any takeover in HISD based on the failure rating of one school out of 280 campuses. These officials should be stepping up now to stand with us in correcting this mistake. The draconian legislation in HB 1842 is especially egregious in this situation, because the one school that would trigger state takeover would not actually be rated an “F” were it not for the “forced failure” rule set by TEA.  We believe that rule —which went beyond the intent of legislation to set up more schools for failure—is an overreach and could be the basis for a legal challenge to any decision to remove the elected HISD Board.

The HFT and our members will continue to fight for local control of our schools, despite any differences we may have with the School Board or administration.  Now is the time for greater community voice in our government, not less.

It is no surprise to us that the oligarchs will fight desperately for unelected and unaccountable governance, and we fear their agenda will be focused on the unbridled privatization of our public schools. Teachers and parents know best what works for their neighborhood schools.  Democracy is the core foundation for public education, and we believe it is worth fighting for.