In the following blog, I'll lay out the timeline with receipts to explain how historic schools like Worthing, Wheatley, and Kashmere are now at risk due to a 2015 law (House Bill 1842) also known as the HISD School Closure Bill. CLICK HERE TO READ THE BILL
Now, chances are your Rep voted for this bill, too. The only people who didn't vote for this bill were:
Anchia; Coleman; Collier; Farias; Gonza´lez; Gutierrez; Herrero; Martinez Fischer; Moody; Naishtat; Neva´rez; Phelan; Riddle; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Romero; Turner, C.; Walle; Dukes; Miles.
CLICK HERE FOR THE ACTUAL VOTE
The bill basically set a new rule: if low performing schools remain that way for five years in a row, the Texas Education Commissioner MUST close the school, or, take over the entire school district through a board of managers that they'd appoint.
Now for what it's worth, I do believe HISD has long neglected our Black and Brown schools like Worthing, Yates, Wheatley, and Kashmere, however, I think this bill makes matters even worse. Especially considering Dutton, the bills "architect" has been in office since 1984, and on the same House Public Education Committee that has cut resources over and over and over and over. So it's a bit ironic and absurd for him to write such a bill.
Now some might look at a partnership or charter and see the good in it, but it's not good at all. It's bad.
How is this bad? You and I would have no local control over the decisions being made. Imagine a board of managers who didn't understand the legacy of schools like Yates or Worthing. Imagine no longer being able to vote for your school board member, instead giving total control to someone who might not even live in Houston.
In 2015, Dutton spearheaded a bill aimed at school accountability, but armed with risky penalties like school closure, chartering, or partnership. In each of these instances, the district basically hands over the keys to the car, allowing a third-party entity to drive it. They could decide that Worthing doesn't need a varsity football team, and should instead devote more resources to academics. A third party could decide to eliminate the marching band at Wheatley, get my drift?
Dutton, whose district includes Wheatley and Kashmere, are now under the gun because of a bill he co-authored! Don't just take my word for it, take a look here at the Texas Legislature Online page which lists Dutton as a Joint Author. Don't just believe me, CLICK HERE FOR THE TLO PAGE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF.
Here's a quote from the Republican Chair of the Public Education Committee talking about the bill in THIS HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARTICLE:
"House Bill 1842, which would force districts to improve failing schools or face tough consequences, passed the House the day before with little of the discussion Aycock's other legislation generated. Aycock called the bill "one of the most far-reaching bills of the session," and said while he carried it, Dutton was the architect."
This State Rep. was credited being the "Architect" of the bill that has our historically Black schools hanging in the balance.
Well, he received a hefty $5,000 donation from a group called "Texans for Education Reform" right before the beginning of the legislative session. Check out this quote from the Observer Article on "Texans for Education Reform":
"The group dispatched 19 lobbyists to the Texas Capitol, many of them highly paid, pushing charter school expansion, online learning and state takeover of low-performing schools."
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL TEXAS OBSERVER STORY
Then chairman of public education, State Rep Jimmy Don Aycock, also received $5,000 from the group. As did committee member Joe Deshotel who represents Port Arthur, Beamont, etc, Rep. Farney and pretty much everyone else on the House Public Education Committee from the same organizations that likely pushed the bill in the first place.
Here's a link to his Campaign Finance Report where you can find this donation, too.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at the way HISD seems to be walking this thing. There are essentially two groups of schools. In one group, they propose a partnership with Johns Hopkins University, but when asked about case studies, or examples of where this organization has partnered with schools before, district officials didn't have any of this information last night.
I did speak to Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jolanda Jones about what we could expect, and for what it's worth, Jolanda always tells it like it is. She's 10 for 10 in my book, so I believe her when she says athletics, marching band, and other activities will remain on these campuses. And though I've known Rhonda less time, she hasn't lied to me yet and seems to be upfront with the position the district is in. I just wish the district were more upfront and transparent with what we might expect if partnership were to happen.
Let me be clear: I'm against chartering, partnership, and closure. Period.
But, it would be nice to hear:
- This is what Johns Hopkins did in X city with the school district there.
- This is what a timeline would look like.
However, I know she's just 1 of 9, and I don't really trust HISD as a whole.
Also, check out this email exchange between Trustee Wanda Adams, then President of the board last year, as she asks about school closures: