The Supreme Court of Texas last week gave the state a green light to replace elected Houston school board members more than three years after Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath first sent warning of a takeover to the Houston Independent School District.
On Friday, the state's highest court reversed lower court decisions that had blocked the Texas Education Agency from taking over Houston ISD until now.
The district "has not demonstrated a probable right to relief on the record as it stands, and thus no basis exists to continue the trial court’s temporary injunction against the Commissioner’s appointment of a board of managers," wrote Texas Supreme Court Justice Jane Bland in the opinion.
The state had planned to take over the district in 2019, citing years of "unacceptable" academic performance at Wheatley High School and board-level "breakdown in governance." In his letter warning then-Superintendent Grenita Lathan and former Board President Diana Davila of the decision, Morath said he hoped the takeover would "encourage other districts to improve their compliance performance in order to avoid similar action."
However, the district sued the commissioner before the state could seize power, and the lower courts granted a temporary injunction in 2020 that prevented a takeover until a final judgment on the lawsuit.
Davila, board president at the time, said the agency came into HISD "with the intent of taking over the district and stripping voters' rights away."
Today, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an opinion that may spark a few questions. We assure you that HISD continues to be here for our students, principals, teachers, and counselors, remaining laser-focused on doing the necessary work to support our schools and community. pic.twitter.com/4IgtIWasHz— Houston ISD (@HoustonISD) January 13, 2023
The Texas Supreme Court's Jan. 13 decision removes that temporary injunction, allowing the state to move forward with its plan while the lawsuit heads to trial.
Following the decision, Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II said in a video to parents that "it is learning as usual for all of our kiddos."
"My team will continue to be laser focused on doing the necessary work to support our schools to ensure continued academic achievement for all of our HISD students," House said.
Since the agency first warned in 2019 of its intent to take hold of Houston ISD, the voters have also elected several new board members.
A lower court will now hear additional arguments.