One of the schools on the list of contracts scheduled to be approved on Thursday is Texas Connections Academy (TCA). Texas Connections Academy is an online school that is run by the testing industrial complex’s darling, Pearson, the publicly traded company that made $782 million in profit last year. Their model is to get parents, who they call “learning coaches”, to do the hard work of motivating their children on a daily basis to complete their online coursework while the shareholders of Pearson reap the financial windfall from collecting annual revenue similar to the allotment a traditional school gets from the state, but without having to pay for the expenses of running a traditional school.
Why would Houston ISD involve itself in such a scheme?
Essentially, HISD is getting a cut of the profit. The state pays HISD the same amount of money for each student enrolled at Texas Connections Academy as they receive for a student sitting in a brick and mortar school, despite the extremely reduced costs.
The bravery of the parents of Ruby Bridges and Sylvia Mendez and others are the reason the community was able to stand before Houston ISD trustees earlier this week and remind them that "separate is never equal” and demand they not take a step backward in the history of school equality.
The testing-based school accountability movement got its start just after schools were forced by the courts to integrate, and that wasn’t an accident. The country somehow did just fine without “school accountability” when white kids went to school with only white kids.
For decades, there has been a need to continually justify less investment in all public schools while bolstering the investment in just some schools—specialty schools, suburban schools, private schools. That justification needed a plausible basis other than race, and standardized testing—with its appearance of science and fact while behind the scenes only being correlated with race and class, not teaching—is just what that movement needed to get the job done.
So, now that the cases are laid out and the battle lines are drawn, who will fight against the movement that is hell-bent on destroying the right to a quality education for everyone?
Ultimately, the move to charter these four schools represents the district abandoning its commitment to children. It is an admission by district leaders that they cannot teach the Black and Brown children in these high-poverty schools.
We should reject that idea. The voters of Houston ISD are capable of electing our own leaders who are able to govern our schools.
Democracy matters. Our voices at local school board meetings matter. The policy work we have done as a community over decades matters. Students of color and students living in extreme concentrations of poverty shouldn’t have to give up democracy in order for their schools to be receive adequate funding.
Don’t be fooled. No true change in schools comes without community engagement, and sustainable, true change comes when people affected by the change lead the way. It doesn’t come from the top down, from a mandate by state government or the mayor’s political backroom.
It comes from the bottom up. It comes from students, parents and the community.
The threat to local, community control of our schools—particularly those in historic Black & Latinx neighborhoods—will continue as long as HB1842 and SB1882 are in effect, and if you watched that fight last year, you also know that we warned that the battles in HISD were not over. Now, the fight has returned. So let’s look back on where we’ve been and take a look at where we stand today.
Education is the neutralizer. It does not change the thoughts of a racist, and it does not render one bulletproof. Education does not automatically afford a person privileges nor does it correct the wrongs that have been done in this country. Education applies an opposition to the force of oppression. Education is energy.
The power of education is no secret, and it is coveted. This power is so magnificent that billionaires and corporations are trying to buy and sell it. When you control the information a population receives, you control the population. Period.
Before we take another dive into the intrinsic flaws of our school board; acknowledge the importance of your education or at least acknowledge the difference an education would have made in your life. Now, apply that feeling to the children you love the most. Throughout this piece, refer back to that feeling. In this fight for educational equity, refer back to our children because this is all about them.
On April 24, 2018, I walked into the school board meeting…
As a mother of two children in Houston ISD schools, I have a stake in the future of our school district and have been following the moves of its Board of Education for several years. I have attended almost every school board meeting for the last few years—including regular meetings, board workshops and agenda review meetings. I am familiar with the players, the politics and the issues with which the school board is dealing. However, this past week’s events shocked even me, a veteran observer of the board’s happenings.
A couple of weeks ago the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released their ratings of schools and school districts. I am the mother of two children at a school in Houston Independent School District, the state’s largest school district and the seventh largest district in the country. How did my kids’ school fare in this year’s accountability system? The school failed, receiving an “Improvement Required” rating.
How long is too long for any community to be neglected for as long as ours? And when I say “ours,” I mean “We The People.” We all have the same problems—some just worse than others. An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.
All taxing authorities and ELECTED officials should be held accountable for overtaxation without any representation. As I evaluate the conditions of my neighborhood, I still see un-driveable city streets, ditches filled with trash and water (some up to 10 ft deep), so-called “affordable” housing surrounded by drug houses, high concentrations of halfway housing, no sidewalks, no zoning, school closures, a high concentration of sex offenders, an increasing crime rate, with a steadily decreasing police presence. I think all areas should receive superior services from our local government and beyond, regardless of the economic, geographic, or demographic makeup of the community. Even though we continue to be neglected, some of us still don’t VOTE for our best interests and keep electing the same people.
Remember when these plans were rolled out in January, and then-superintendent Carranza assured us that the community would be fully apprised of all the details of these proposals at these community meetings? Well, here we are at the conclusion of the meetings and we know no more than when we started-scratch that, we know LESS.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) contracted with American Institutes for Research® (AIR®) to conduct a third-party, independent “Special Education Program Review.” AIR conducted this review over a 10-month period between May 2017 and February 2018. This report describes our assessment of HISD’s strengths and areas in need of improvement with respect to its special education program, and identifies recommendations for HISD to consider as it continues its efforts to improve services for students with disabilities in the district