Key Agenda Items
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge for the district in terms of student safety and learning. The Board must continue to address the effects of the pandemic, while still continuing regular district operations. Houston GPS would like to highlight the following areas of concern:
The main focus of the Board of Education should be improving outcomes for HISD students, with a clear emphasis on equitably closing gaps between different student groups. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent interruptions to HISD’s normal learning schedule exacerbated inequities amongst students. While recent data from the district shows that student outcomes are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels, large gaps between student groups existed prior to the pandemic and persist today. As the board works through its community engagement and potential goal updates, it must hone in on how to guide the district in equitably providing students with what they need and eliminating barriers to education in order to address systemic inequities for our kids.
In June 2020, the Board made a commitment to examine the role of police in the district to confront systemic racism and police violence against people of color. Considering the disproportionate discipline and forced interaction with police that students of color, especially Black boys, face in public education, this continues to be a pressing equity concern. Despite interest in continuing this discussion, the Board has not publicly revisited it since a workshop in 2020. This month, the district seeks to obtain additional weapons and equipment for HISD police to address school safety concerns in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, which has prompted some trustees to revisit the role of police in the district but has also brought up significant issues of student safety from gun violence. District officials publicly stated that they are concerned the department is not prepared for an active shooter in HISD.
Our children deserve to learn without having to worry about their safety and families deserve to send their kids to school knowing they will receive the care they need. The Board must find a path forward that not only protects our students and families from violence but also recognizes and addresses the role that police often play in systemic oppression of communities of color. Both of these issues are necessities and not at all mutually exclusive. The Board must engage in meaningful dialogue amongst themselves, with the administration, and with the community to arrive at a solution and one that is proven to work. With the school year starting soon, the Board and administration must push forward quickly to have the right equipment, training, and procedures in place to ensure the safety of our kids.
The Board is currently in the process of redistricting, which they are required to do by law considering the shifts in population as outlined in the 2020 Census. As when any government body is engaged in redrawing voting district lines, the Board must take care to prioritize fair voting practices and not disenfranchise identifiable groups of people, especially communities of color. HISD is an incredibly diverse school district with a diverse voting population, which should be reflected in our elected leadership. As of August 4, 2022, the Board has selected two different options for redistricting, which it plans to seek community feedback on within the next couple of months.
- HISD is long overdue for a bond election. Normally, districts have a bond election around every five years. It has been a decade for HISD, leaving many schools in need of repair or even rebuilding. The Board, along with administration, must work to set the district up for a bond election as soon as possible and have a clear procedure for how to select priority schools and utilize bond funds to improve the district.