Big Win for Houston Public Schools After Charter Privatization Attempt

The Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT), led by president Jackie Anderson, along with a coalition of Houston community leaders including Sen. Borris Miles, Rep. Alma Allen, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, the NAACP, and faith leaders, successfully fought off an attempt by some Houston Independent School District (HISD) board members to rush through a new rule that would easily allow unaccountable charter operators to take over Houston public schools.

The rule, known as a “parent trigger,” is cloaked in the guise of “parental rights” but is a policy designed by the charter industry. This concept originates with the private interests represented on the education task force of the hyper-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and is designed to serve those private interests rather than the best interest of students. 

Bills that include similar proposals have been defeated repeatedly at the Texas Legislature for good reason. States that have experimented unsuccessfully with this model saw charter operators with no connection to the community rush in with an incentive to finance signature-gathering on a petition to bring in their outside charter-management team to take over a neighborhood school.

In her testimony, Anderson held up a copy of the Aug. 17 edition of the Houston Chronicle’s front-page story about scandal-riddled IDEA charter schools. The Chronicle story revealed there is such little oversight of Texas charter schools that IDEA leased a $15 million private jet while under state investigation for inappropriate spending even after agreeing to  “strictly enforce” new fiscal responsibility policies required by that ongoing investigation. 

“This is what happens when you invite greed, theft, fraud, and corruption — AKA charters — into school districts,” Anderson said “We don’t need any more of that in HISD; we’ve had enough, we’re sick of it. We want our schools managed by the people we have duly elected to run them.” 

It is noteworthy that the HISD board would consider passing such a radical policy change to hand over public schools to charter operators in the same week the district saw significant performance gains on TEA’s accountability scores among its schools. Congratulations to the Houston community for fighting hard to protect their public schools and to ensure the public retains its voice in them.

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