HOUSTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Texas AFT and Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo issued the following statements in response to the Texas Education Agency’s announcement that it plans to take over local control of the Houston Independent School District:
“This is a power grab to disenfranchise families in Houston—particularly families of color—who just exercised their voice in a democratic vote on control of the city’s public schools. Now, the state government wants to step in and ignore that vote and exercise state control over this community because of one below-grade school, when the rest of them are scoring in the top tier in math and reading.
“What Houston’s students and their families really need is leadership: leadership that is committed to serving the needs of our local schoolchildren and the needs of the teachers who greet them every day. Educators must be assured that they, their students and their classrooms will be the focus of every decision, and our campuses must be able to thrive as safe and welcoming places for teaching and learning, unfettered by the machinations in Austin.
“The HFT has one goal: to look out for students—not to play politics with how we educate them.”
“This takeover by the Texas Education Agency strips the entire Houston community—particularly Houston’s families—of their basic right to have democratically governed public schools. It’s curiously timed during the exact moment the public are casting their votes to make changes in the Houston school board. But the fact remains: Teachers, parents and the community of Houston know what is best for Houston, and they have worked together over the last decade to see real improvement in Houston’s schools. Alarmingly, rather than focusing on that improvement, Austin bureaucrats are using one school’s challenges as the basis for stripping everyone in Houston of their voice.
“The state is playing a crude game of politics with public education in a shameful power grab that ignores students’ educational needs and disrespects the educators in the classroom. Using grossly flawed judgment, politicians in Austin have decided to use a blunt instrument that will undermine and disrupt the mission of community control of public education.
”We’ve been here enough times to know that our first priority must always be students, and our national union will do whatever we have to do to support the educators in this city in standing up for their kids and their schools against the state’s overreach. Our country’s history is replete with efforts to disenfranchise people of color and women, but Texas should not go down that ugly path again with this effort to take over the Houston school system.”