Letter to Houston Federation of Teachers members after state takeover of the district

Dear HFT Family,

Yesterday’s announcement from the Texas Education Agency to take over HISD schools in the coming months was sudden, but we’re prepared and we have your backs. HFT has your back, Texas AFT has your back, and your national union has your back, because we’ve seen this happen in countless communities around the country, and we know that our first priority is standing up for our students and our public schools.

I know the headlines you read every day can make the work you do in the classroom seem daunting, but please know that the entire Houston community knows what you do for their kids, and they won’t forget it.

The timing of this takeover is the biggest red flag of all: right after the democratic elections to reshape the Houston School Board? That flies in the face of the will of the people of Houston and what we want for our public schools, and what we’ve been trying to fight for. And the idea that the state should come in because one campus out of nearly 300 is struggling is complete overreach–especially when most of our schools are leading the state in math and reading.

We will get through this. The Board of Managers that will steer this process holds no more power than the Board of Trustees–they can change policies, but they must go through the same public process. So you will still maintain the rights that we have fought so hard for and that are codified in state law, and we do not expect any changes in your current contractual or salary status.

But make no mistake: this takeover will result in old issues coming back to haunt us. When Gov. Abbott refers to failed policies of the Board, he’s referring to the repeal of the failed test-and-punish policies of the past. You can expect to see all those greatest hits getting replayed, and a rerun of that entire agenda that we know doesn’t serve HISD students. As we learn more about what this takeover entails, know that our highest priorities are our students and you, the educators who are in the classrooms and school buildings every day. We’ll fight to make sure your voices are heard, and your role in this process is respected, and that the progress we’ve made is maintained.

Remember, when we stand together, we win. When we keep our students and our profession at the center of the fight, we win. We will be with you the entire way, and we expect to have the full strength of the AFT standing with us just as they stood with Chicago through their fight and with Los Angeles before. Stay strong and resolute in the knowledge that the district goes nowhere without you.

In Unity,
Zeph Capo
President, Houston Federation of Teachers

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