By CVPE Members Ann McCoy and Jeremy Eugene

After an in-depth interview with TEA commissioner, Mike Morath, the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board concluded that his “vision” was “more ambitious than we thought.” However, the commissioner’s ambitions for HISD and its students may be neither in the long-term best interests of students, parents, and teachers. They are also not what voters and taxpayers want. 

TEA’s pretext for taking over the Houston Independent School District is that in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019 students enrolled at Wheatley High School scored below the state’s standard on the STAAR exam, thereby, violating state law. Morath’s Houston Chronicle interview responses were his first publicized comments regarding his “vision” for HISD, and they suggest  this takeover may be far-reaching, targeting more schools. 

TEA taking over HISD to “save” Wheatley High School looks like a Trojan Horse. Whether the Trojan Horse of Greek mythology or 21st century digital malware, Houstonians’ outrage regarding TEA’s interference in HISD is warranted. 

Call us Cassandras, but Morath signaled his true intent throughout the interview – a harbinger of things to come.

When asked whether he would  increase the number of charter schools or close schools in HISD, Commissioner Morath did not rule out either. Translation: TEA’s HISD takeover means that the community no longer has a public forum for expressing their objections to policies that harm our students, public schools, and the city of Houston. 

Commissioner Morath took care to say that his “vision” was not about one school because the performance of Wheatley’s students started with the elementary schools they attended and he had ideas for how to change elementary schools (Morath at 4:09) in Houston. Translation: TEA’s takeover will affect campuses all over HISD, not just one.

When the Chronicle’s editorial board asked, “Who does the Board answer to?” Morath responded, “effectively, me” (Morath at 13:15). Translation:  Commissioner Morath’s “vision” for the district is what will be imposed during the takeover. Those of us living within HISD’s boundaries will be taxed and denied representation. 

To explain high expectations, Morath told the Chronicle Editorial Board a story about a teacher who tried to ignore what her homeless students are experiencing outside of school so she could focus on student outcomes. Does Morath not realize that empathy and high expectations are two pieces of the same puzzle?

Morath also shared an anecdote about a principal whose teachers were so focused on “student outcomes” that they wouldn’t excuse a student with a broken arm from a writing assignment, and went on to say that every student and teacher in Houston “needs that kind of structure and support.” 

During his interview with the Chronicle, Morath mocked HISD by “joking” that the district has over 75,000 approaches to literacy instruction (Morath at 50:18). Translation: The Commissioner does not understand or appreciate that personalized approaches to education and empathy are necessary to improve the educational outcomes of students in HISD.

When describing his approach for improving the mathematics outcomes of students at Wheatley and Kashmere High Schools he offered the following test prep solution, “Give them targeted, tutoring that goes all the way down to kindergarten… do that all year long. You do it after school. You do it in the summer. And you're also then not giving up on teaching them grade level mathematics content as well because you can do both of those simultaneously” (Morath at 22:21). 

Translation: Morath’s plan is for children to be taught twice as fast and magically recover from challenging past hurdles like the pandemic. He will not promote flexible and responsive educational environments that meet our students where they are. Since Morath was a substitute teacher for only one semester, he may need remediation himself in the pedagogy of teaching and learning. 

Unfortunately, our interpretation of Morath’s interview responses are not presumptuous. This pattern of state takeover idealism has repeated itself many times across the country, all with damaging impact. In New York, in New Orleans, in Philadelphia and even in Houston under Grier, conservatives and corporate reformers have used the “underperformance” of public schools in communities that need us the most as an excuse to dismantle public education.

TEA’s seizure of HISD is a horrible decision; the consequences, both intentional and unintentional, will be borne by Houstonians and our children. Neither Morath nor the Texas Education Agency can guarantee that HISD’s students, teachers, parents, or taxpayers will benefit, in any way, from their interference. 

Prediction: TEA’s takeover of HISD will harm our students and our schools. It  won’t lead to any sustained reforms. Controlled entirely by Morath and TEA, the appointed board of managers will lay waste to HISD…if we allow them to

Read more about HISD Takeover at  and via CVPE's Takeover One Pager (in multiple languages)

Jeremy Eugene


Writer. Educator. Poet. Trini. He/him or They/them.