Runoff for Houston ISD School Board Has Wider Implications

The victory of Juliet Stipeche in today’s runoff election for a seat on the Houston ISD school board has national implications. Stipeche, running with the strong support of the Houston Federation of Teachers, prevailed in a close race over a well-funded candidate backed by business groups and out-of-state political interests pushing for the expansion of charter schools. These organizations—and their anointed candidates–also have rallied behind Houston ISD’s adoption of a highly questionable “value-added” methodology for teacher appraisal, an approach that exacerbates the already pervasive misuse of standardized test scores to mete out rewards and punishments in public schools. One of these groups, the Washington-based Democrats for Education Reform, has been described by education historian Diane Ravitch as “a small and politically powerful organization that involves some of the nation’s wealthiest hedge-fund managers.”

HFT President Gayle Fallon, celebrating Stipeche’s victory, summed up the significance of the election with this comment to the Houston Chronicle: “I would say that the teachers and the community just won one against a whole lot of money and a national agenda.” (Stipeche also had the backing of Texas AFT’s other affiliate in Houston ISD, the Houston Educational Support Personnel Union.)