Saying that to replace an elected board with one appointed by the State Education Commissioner is disenfranchising voters, the Houston Federation of Teachers and three educators announced Tuesday they have filed a motion to join the Houston ISD's suit in federal court fighting the Texas Education Agency's takeover plans.
The three educators are identified in the lawsuit by their ethnicities — Jackie Anderson is African-American as is Maxie Hollingsworth while Daniel Santos is Hispanic. They and the HFT are arguing that Commissioner Mike Morath and the TEA have targeted school districts that are predominantly minority and thus are violating the Voting Rights Act by taking away their right to vote and to elect representatives to public office.
According to the motion from the teachers union which seeks to stop the school board takeover:
Houston ISD's student population is 61.84% Hispanic, 24.02% African American, 8.7% White and 4.05% Asian. The demographics of Houston ISD's voting population is substantially similar to the demographics of its student population.
To date, every school district in which TEA has attempted to replace an elected board of trustees with an unelected board of managers has been a school district in which a majority of the students were people of color. This has resulted in a disparate impact on people of color in the state of Texas."
HFT argues that while the TEA says it is stepping in because of misdeeds of its elected board and the continued failure of Wheatley High School, that is just "a fig leaf" for the agency's real intentions which are to privatize education throughout the state."
The lawsuit repeats many of the points made at HFT's November 11 press conference in which HFT president Zeph Capo said TEA hasn't done anything about several other school districts whose accreditation status is no better than HISD's. The difference, the lawsuit says, is that those districts are not governed by majority minority school boards.
The TEA has asked the court to dismiss the HISD lawsuit whose request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for a December 5 hearing. Meanwhile, TEA is still in the process of conducting community meetings to gather information about what the community wants and to explain the steps it has taken. It also is taking in applications from would-be appointees to the new board.
For now, the present school board has continued to conduct meetings. And the candidates who ran for four HISD trustee seats to which they were either elected or are in a run-off for with a January start date, well their future remains in limbo as the matter edges its way through the courts.
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