Protest march over HISD state takeover set for next week as parental and community opposition grows

As opposition from parents and community members grows, the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice will organize a march against the state’s takeover of the Houston Independent School District next week.

Community leaders have urged people to attend the 9 am event next Friday at Cesar Chavez High School in southeast Houston. Civil rights leader Virgil Wood, 92, will lead the march as grand marshal, according to organizers.

“If we want to send a really loud message categorically opposing the takeover, let’s come up with high numbers,” said Johnny Mata, president of the Justice Coalition. “We appeal to the state and the Texas Education Agency: ‘Don’t stop the progress that has already been made at HISD. Progress is being made.'”

The march will take place during a school holiday commemorating the high school of the same name, a union leader and civil rights activist who fought for better working conditions on farms, said Isidro Garza, a local member of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Garza said he hopes people celebrate Chavez’s legacy by participating in the march.

“It’s the unknown we fear,” he said of the state takeover. “We know where we are: our schools are progressing.”

Meanwhile, he said, the community doesn’t know how a state-appointed council would run the district.

“The only thing we know is that, to me, it looks like a big government is taking over local control,” Garza said.

The ACLU of Texas is concerned about possible voting rights violations resulting from the state buyout, said Ashley Harris, an attorney for the organization. The legal group wants the state to “pause” the acquisition, she said.

“These are voters of color and their concerns are being ignored by a state agency that is not accountable to these local voters,” he said. “We urge TEA to reconsider these actions.”

Dr. Audrey Nath, a HISD parent and pediatric neurologist, said she was shocked last week to learn of the state’s plan to take over the district.

His son attends kindergarten at Wharton Dual Language Academy, the family’s neighborhood school.

“In talking to other parents, there hasn’t been a single parent who has expressed in school or on a playground that we really need an acquisition,” she said. “We really appreciate the local control we have for our school district.”

The elected council implements policies and makes decisions with input from parents and community members, Nath said, even on important issues like school safety or guns on campus.

“This is just one of many issues where I’m wondering, is TEA going to remove our voices and remove the policies we put in place to protect our children?” she said. “I haven’t seen any answers to these questions.”

Nath said some people have the financial means or flexibility to home-school their children or send them to private school.

“Many of us are in a privileged position,” he said. “But a lot of people aren’t – and what happens to them?”

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