Houston Federation of Teachers members united with other Houston ISD teachers, nurses, parents, and community activists to defeat a District of Innovation proposal that would have allowed the district to hire non-certified, unlicensed teachers. The District Advisory Council voted down the proposal 21 to 10.
District of Innovation (DOI) status allows districts to go through a process to exempt themselves from certain provisions of the Education Code, and those exempted provisions need to be outlined in their plans. More than 800 districts statewide have achieved DOI with most opting only to exempt themselves from the required school-start date. However, many also have nixed requirements for notifying parents when K-4 class sizes exceed standards, as well as other important safeguards for educators and students.
“Almost all teachers and staff agree we need to be innovative in our work,” said HFT President Jackie Anderson. “But there are many ways to do this without lifting legal protections that ensure we protect students and educators. We know that teachers come into the profession in many ways, but state law already allows other alternative paths for career professionals to come into the classroom. Allowing HISD to entirely exempt itself from state law is not innovative.”
The victory also illustrates the importance of district advisory councils, which must approve DOI plans. Electing educator-friendly members to these councils—which consist of teachers and classroom professionals elected by district employees, as well as community members appointed by the school board—can be invaluable in fighting harmful DOI proposals.