Advocates of a state takeover of the Houston Independent School District tend to focus on the chronic low performance of some of the district’s schools as well as dysfunction in its school board. What those advocates virtually never consider is whether the remedy of a state takeover might be worse than the disease.
Experience with state takeovers across the nation as well as in Texas clearly shows that state-appointed boards fail to improve academic achievement. These takeovers also create significant political backlash that compounds over time as the state has difficulty returning to local control without having remedied the low academic performance that justified the takeover in the first place. It’s true that HISD faces significant challenges, but a state takeover is the wrong solution.
We’ve seen the problems of state takeovers here in Arkansas, where the state has been running the Little Rock School District since 2015. As is currently the case in Houston, Little Rock had a number of schools with stubbornly low academic performance and a poorly functioning school board. State officials were confident that they could do better, but five years into state control very little has changed. The district continues to lag state averages on English Language Arts and Math achievement tests and high school graduation rates by roughly the same amount as it did before the takeover.
Jay P. Greene is a distinguished professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas. Follow him on Twitter here.