May 7, 2018
At a time when Houston, one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, should be exploring the best way to provide a world class education to all kids, most elected officials and community leaders insist on engaging in political grandstanding and ideological battles. With state-imposed sanctions looming at the end of this academic year, our community has finally been forced to deal with the fact that the largest school district in Texas is only serving some of its students well. Sadly, others attend schools where the vast majority of the student population has not been prepared to meet some of the most basic academic standards. Amidst all the discussion about potential changes in Houston ISD, it seems like one pivotal question is missing: What are we doing for the children?
The story of our current Improvement Required (IR) schools is not new. Indeed, several of them have had that state-appointed status for more than 5 years. And each new attempt at reform reveals the same truth: the system is not meeting the academic needs of kids with the fewest resources. And far too often, long-term solutions and true innovation are traded for political expedience and big contracts. As we talk about “partnerships,” and “local control,” it seems we lose sight of this question: “What does it take to actually provide students with the best education possible?”
The last – and only – attempt the HISD board made to forge a partnership for the 10 schools at greatest risk of closure ended with public protests and three unnecessary arrests. While it is tempting to focus on the disrespect shown to the public at that meeting, we cannot forget that there is still no plan to improve educational outcomes for our children. Now, with the fate of those schools – or the autonomy of our elected board – in the balance, we as a community should start making demands of both our local and state officials to pay attention to what is actually best for kids.
At this point, the public should be skeptical of the treatment of public schools by government officials at every level. But as we look for outlets for our frustration and decide on next steps, we must demand that our elected officials put kids first. In the absence of strong leadership, we must lead by example and focus every conversation and every action on pursuing real solutions for students.