HOUSTON, TX — Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school district in Texas, is planning to vote to close five schools on March 13, 2014. Of the five schools, four are predominately African American. This decision comes less than a year after the Texas Education Agency closed the largest African American School District in the state of Texas, North Forest ISD, on the north side of Houston. This school’s administration buildings are now leased by ‘YES PREP’, KIPP and Harmony. These are all Charter schools that submitted a proposal to take over the school district.
Community leaders, teachers and administrators fought closing the school district up to the federal court, where the case was dismissed after the Supreme Court decision to overturn several portions of the voting rights act in June of 2013. The part that called for the department of Justice to review such closings prior to decisions going forward was eliminated, thereby eliminating any chance North Forest ISD had for keeping their doors open.
One of the five schools now on the chopping block with HISD is Jones High School. Jones has longstanding roots in the Black community and a history of struggling to survive. Jones adopted the first high school Vanguard program in 1977, a program for gifted and talented students, in an attempt to strengthen the school. In 2002, the Vanguard Program separated from Jones to become Carnegie Vanguard High School, only to move further out of that community by 2009 to a location north of downtown Houston. Carnegie Vanguard’s new location is in the heavily gentrified Fourth Ward area that has been refurbished to attract new young prominence to the city.
The proposed school closings are scheduled for schools with less than 400 students, a proposal that will save $1.6 million. But the fact is that HISD just won a bond election to get $1.89 million to renovate or build 40 schools. The district not only received bond money, but was awarded $30 million from the Department of Education in federal funding.
As the crisis in capitalism grows, education is rapidly placed on the chopping block in every city and in every state in this country. North Forest retained 75 of 500 teachers when it was taken over by HISD. Meanwhile HISD had 700 teachers out of approximately 12,000 teachers break their contracts and walk out of their job in 2013. This doesn’t begin to address the abandonment of communities that need these schools and their resources the most.
This withdrawal from inner city schools and poor school districts is an expansion of the state’s withdrawal from its responsibility to serve all of it’s citizens. These schools aren’t closing because of lack of funds, teachers, or students—these schools are closing because they are not profitable enough. We need a school system and society that places our children before profit. The only way to stop this rampant abandonment by the state of its working, poor and minority communities is to take control of the national school system and ensure every child has access to a quality education.