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‘No More Harm’: Educators, Parents Launch Campaign to End State Takeover of Houston ISD

HOUSTON, Texas — One week after the leadership of Houston ISD’s largest teachers union approved a resolution of no confidence in state-installed Superintendent Mike Miles and nearly one year on from the start of the Texas Education Agency’s takeover of the district, educators and parents gathered Thursday to hear the results of the ratification vote from the full membership of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

 

In the clearest sign yet of the community’s overwhelming opposition to the state’s takeover of their school district, 98% of HFT members voted to ratify the resolution. Announcing the results, HFT President Jackie Anderson called the vote “historic.”

 

The outcome of the vote is remarkable for several reasons. In a state that imposes significant penalties on public sector employees who strike or participate in a work stoppage, a no confidence resolution is one of the strongest shots across the bow public school teachers can take.

 

Furthermore, district employees have expressed throughout this academic year that they fear speaking out against Miles’ policies and decision-making will result in retaliation from district administrators. This vote is the largest demonstration of Houston ISD employee discontent to date.

 

“Earlier this year, F. Mike Miles told educators who didn’t agree with his alleged ‘reforms’ that they should find new jobs,” Anderson told the crowd gathered for the State of the Houston ISD Occupation luncheon. “It goes to show how little he knows of educators’ hearts and minds. They care too much about their students and their community to leave, but they will not comply quietly with the destruction of everything they’ve worked so hard to accomplish.” 

 

The results of the vote framed the rest of the lunch-and-learn event at HFT’s office on Thursday, with a coalition of parents and educators announcing the launch of a No More Harm campaign to end the state’s takeover of their district.

 

To that end, attendees heard from Rebekah Skelton, a graduate student in the Educational Leadership and Policy program at The University of Texas at Austin. Skelton, a former middle- and high-school English teacher in Houston, has been studying state takeovers, their impact, and community response to them as part of her graduate coursework.

 

Using real-life examples from Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark schools, Skelton presented the findings of her research:

 

  • State takeovers of school districts are not effective at making financial improvements or improving student academic achievement.

  • State takeovers exacerbate existing school issues and destabilize school infrastructure.

  • Examples from around the country show that the most effective strategies used to return districts to local control include a combination of political advocacy and community organizing.

 

“About 5 miles down the road from us right now, Mike Miles is being feted for his attempts to develop a ‘culture of performance and accountability’ in Houston ISD,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT, in reference to a State of Education event hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership. “That’s not the culture I see. The culture Miles is building in Houston ISD is the same one we see statewide: starve public schools of resources, shame them for not meeting unrealistic expectations, and then shutter them, in favor of charter schools just like Miles’ Third Future Schools. That’s why he’s in a room right now with people who don’t work in our schools instead of holding himself accountable to the people who are.”

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