HISD takeover: Wheatley High School alumni and lawmakers react to TEA takeover of district and debate whether decision was political

Houston, Texas (KTRK) – At the Harris County Commission this week, Alginita Scott Davis spoke her mind. She graduated from Wheatley High School, as well as her brother and mother. She said the state is at fault for taking over the Houston ISD in an effort she called misguided.

“It’s really important that Wheatley be recognized for his improvements over the past seven or eight years,” Davis told ABC13. “The legislature needs to issue an immediate remedy and stop this huge inappropriate measure that is happening.”

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo thanked her for speaking and said the seizure is harmful to children and our democracy.

See previous report: “Ultimately, This Intervention Is Necessary”: The State Announces Official TEA Acquisition of Houston’s ISD

Hidalgo said, “I’ve been very clear, and I will continue to be very clear about how this is part of a pattern of the state taking on duly elected duties and leadership in Harris County simply because voters don’t vote the way the state likes.”

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, co-authored legislation in 2021 that gave the state two options. He did not agree with any assessment that the decision was political in nature.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with politics — the way Harris County votes,” Bettencourt said.

“This is a completely audacious lie, and I would defy anyone else. This is about the performance of an HIV board of trustees that in 2019 received such a horrible report card from TEA that a takeover was going to begin. Commissioner Morath had two options: close Wheatley High School and bring in a board Management, and bringing in a board of directors is the best long-term decision because Wheatley High School is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.”

See 2019 Report: 21 HISD Schools Receive an “F” in the Texas Education Agency Annual Report

Davis does not agree that there is a problem now at all. “It’s wrong for Texas when it does this, and the Texas Education Agency does it,” she said.

But State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, who is a graduate of Wheatley College, said it was the right move. He also helped author the legislation that launched the takeover.

“In 2015, I realized we had a problem,” said Dutton. “And the problem we had in Northeast Houston, where schools were failing almost without any acknowledgment of that failure whatsoever. You passed a bill and passed an amendment to a bill that says if a campus in your school district fails because of five consecutive school years, TEA can close the school, I mean, they can shut down the school, or they can take over the district. But if they close the school, they have to get the parents’ permission from that school. So, basically, what is this leaving them with one option, which is to actually take over the school “.

RELATED: ‘The state deserves an F’: Mayor Sylvester Turner, other leaders react to TEA’s HISD takeover

Dutton is the former chairman of the House Education Committee. The current chair of the Senate Education Committee is Brandon Creighton, and he has also endorsed the acquisition, which he said was not a quick decision.

“Time and time again, there are some serious performance concerns at Houston ISD,” Creighton said. And look, I’m not so much with the institution as I am with the kids. And all of our kids deserve the best education possible. I think if performance fails over years, we owe kids a better chance. And a better opportunity than is being provided.”

While nearly all Democrats disapprove of the buyout and loss of local control, and some say it’s all about politics, Dutton said he has no regrets about doing what he believes is right.

“My mother always told me that if you see a crowd going one way, go the other way,” he said. “Because they are probably wrong.”

For updates on this story, follow Tom Abrahams FacebookAnd Twitter And Instagram.

SEE ALSO: Texas Education Agency Ready to Find New Leaders for Houston ISD, Deleted Documents Show Now

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