Public administration is based mainly on one school. Mascot / Getty Images

Domingo Morel, New York University

When the state of Texas took over the Houston Public Schools District On March 15, 2023, this made the district one of more than 100 school districts in the country to experience similar government takeovers for the past 30 years.

The list includes New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland and Newark. Houston is the largest school district in Texas the eighth largest in the USA

For now states the state of Texas takeover is planned for the improvement of the school, my research on government takeovers school districts suggests that Houston’s takeover, like others, is influenced by racism and political power.

States are failing

Since the late 1980s, state governments have used takeovers to intervene in school districts they identified as in need of improvement. While state administrations promise that the takeover will improve the school system, 30 years of evidence shows that state takeovers are not meeting expectations promised to states. For example, a recent report called the 15-year administration of Detroit schools in Michigan a “expensive mistake” because the takeover failed to address the school system’s major problems, among them adequate funding for the school district.

But while the takeovers do not bring the promised results, how I show in my book, they do have significant negative political and economic consequences for communities that are overwhelmingly communities of color. These negative effects often include the elimination of elected school boards. They also include cuts to teachers and staff and the loss of local control over schools.

Despite the highly problematic history of state takeovers, states justify takeovers on the grounds that the entire school district needs improvement. However, this is not the case for the Houston takeover, because by the state’s own standards, the Houston school system is not failing.

Low threshold for state intervention

According to the 2015 law HB 1842, the state of Texas has been given the authority to take over a school district if one school in that district has failed to meet state education standards for five or more years. The bill passed the Republican-controlled state legislature with support from Democrats. However, Democratic lawmakers representing Houston say the law was a mistake and urged him to reconsider.

Although the state gave the Houston Independent School District a Rating Bhe plans to take over houston schools because one schoolwheatley high school has not made sufficient progress since 2017. Under state law, the state can take over a school district or close a school if it fails to meet standards for five years.

Houston Independent School District has 280 schools. The district serves over 200,000 students. Works approx 12 thousand teachers. Wheatley High School serves approx 800 students and has about 50 teachers.

So why would the state take control of a school district that received a B rating from the state? And why base absorption on the results of one school that represents less than 1% of the district’s students and teachers?

To understand the logic behind the planned state takeover of Houston’s schools, one must understand the important role that schools have played in the social, political, and economic development of communities of color. Historically, communities of color have relied on school-level politics as an entry point to broader political participation. Policies at the school level can include issues such as ending school segregation, demanding more resources for schools, increasing the number of teachers and administrators of color, and participating in school board elections.

The process of gaining political power at the local – and ultimately state – level often begins in schools, especially the school board. For example, before black and Latin Americans elect members of their communities to city councils, mayors, and state legislatures, they often first elect school board members.

Political representation is at stake

Communities of color are politically underrepresented in Texas. Although blacks, Hispanics, and Asians make up nearly 60% of Texas’ population, their political power at the state level is disproportionate to their population. White make up 54% of the state legislature. The Republican Party controls the governorship, state house and state senate, but only just 12% of all Republican state legislators of color. Communities of color in Texas sued, alleging Republicans prevented them from gaining statewide political representation through racial gerrymandering and voter identification laws disenfranchise blacks and Hispanics.

However, despite years of systematic exclusion of people of color, the political landscape in Texas is changing. There is Texas increasingly urbanized as a result of population growth in the cities of the state. Since there are urban voters more likely vote Democratic, the growth of the urban population could potentially change the political dynamics in the state. Also, while African Americans strongly identified with the Democratic Party in Texas, Latinos did not. But that is also changing. Polls show that support for Republican presidential candidates in Texas among Latinos has risen from 49% during George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 to 35% for John McCain in 2008, 29% for Mitt Romney in 2012 and a low of 18% for Donald Trump in 2016 yearbefore returning to 41% for Trump in 2020.

Houston, as the largest urban center in Texas, is emerging at the forefront of this challenge to the republican seizure of state power. Houston schools in particular are representative of the state’s demographic and political future. Houston’s nine-member school board reflects the community it serves. It includes three Latino, four African-American and two white school board members. This, in my view, is what has put the Houston Public School System and the school board at the forefront of what is really a battle over race and political power.

The Houston Public School system does not disappoint. Rather, Republican Governor Greg Abbott, Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and the Republican state legislature are creating an education crisis to prevent Houstonians of color from exercising their civil rights and seizing political power.

This is an updated version of an article previously published on January 10, 2020.

Domingo MorelAssociate Professor of the Department of Political Science and Civil Service, New York University

This article is reprinted from Conversation licensed under Creative Commons. To read original article.

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