NOTE: On Thursday, Dec. 5, at 5 p.m. CST, educators, parents and others will rally at Houston Independent School District headquarters, Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 W. 18th St., Houston.
Earlier on Dec. 5, in Austin, the first hearing will be held on the Houston Federation of Teachers’ federal lawsuit against the proposed state takeover of Houston schools.
HOUSTON—An overflow crowd of Houstonians made it very clear at a Dec. 3 town hall meeting that they want a say in solutions to strengthen Houston public schools and oppose the state’s intention to take over the schools without considering community voices.
“The only authentic and sustainable way to improve our schools is to truly listen to parents, educators and students. The community is offended that the state is trying to pull a fast one by storming in to take over all 284 schools because one school is having trouble,” said Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers and Texas AFT. The crowd’s recurring chant was: “Our schools, our say.”
More than 150 people came together at a community town hall meeting to talk about what they want for the Houston Independent School District and the type of equity and improvements that Houston students need and deserve.
In addition to Capo, other speakers included American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; state Rep. Senfronia Thompson; educators and parents, including from Wheatley High School, which has been underperforming; and others.
The speakers discussed the apparent political agenda of Austin bureaucrats: to take over the entire school district, which is the largest in the state and the seventh-largest in the nation, and to charterize and privatize the schools.
“This is about seizing control of schools from local leaders, stripping away the voice of parents, educators and the community, and using all of this as a subterfuge to turn the schools into charters. The community made it abundantly clear this is not what they want,” Capo said.
The crowd heard about the poor track record of charter schools—even many in Houston—and of state takeovers in cities across the country.
Capo said a better, brighter future for HISD would not be possible using a charter agenda. He urged using a whole-child agenda that includes community schools with services to help kids with health, social and emotional needs; smaller class sizes; and before- and after-school enrichment programs.