HOUSTON — In an underground hearing room at the Texas State Capitol is where lawmakers got the news that the Texas Education Agency would take over Houston ISD in June.
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath had no comment as he walked into the building Wednesday morning, but spent nearly an hour talking with state and federal lawmakers inside.
While Morath didn't express specifics on how the TEA would improve HISD, officials said the change is necessary. Several Houston Democrats weighed in.
"I don't know how badly the problem is," said Texas Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. "I know we've had consistently failing schools and they didn't just get there overnight. I wouldn't suspect that we would get them out of that overnight...but I do know we have to do it."
Read more on the TEA taking over HISD:
Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Jolanda Jones expressed her concern about the impact on HISD's students.
"TEA, in my respectful opinion, is doing the bidding of the governor. They want to take over HISD with vouchers and all these other things and they're going to use our kids as guinea pigs. So I'm very heartbroken right now."
Going forward, both House and Senate Democrats said they'll work to pass new bills before June 1. The bills would give the TEA more flexibility and less severe options for HISD and other districts moving forward.
Here's a statement released by Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt on the TEA's takeover:
“I’ve watched, at best, an ineffective HISD Board of Trustee Governance for 8 years as the second longest serving member on the Senate Education Committee. A highly critical TEA report of nefarious trustees activity and a subsequent FBI investigation with multiple indictments which resulted in a plea deal with a former HISD Trustee, have concerned me greatly. Therefore, I strongly support Commissioner Mike Morath’s decision to install a Board of Managers for the HISD school district."
Houston Mayor Turner's response
While the district's performance over the years draws ire, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said if anyone failed, the TEA failed for how it handled the situation.
"You cannot run local government from Austin," Turner said. "The state deserves an F on how they handled this. Just a flat out F. "So, who takes them over? Who are they accountable to?"
Turner also questioned the timing by the TEA after the announcement was made during spring break, despite no changes being made until June.
"What about the safety in our schools? What about guns being brought into our schools," Turner said. "So this is the priority?"
HISD parents response
KHOU 11's Lauren Talarico spoke with some HISD parents, some of which said they are just confused about the takeover.
"I don't understand why they are taking over now, what are they going to do?" asked Dr. Richelle Whittaker, a parent in the district. "What's going to be different with them taking over than what's already been done?"
Other parents think it's a move in the right direction.
"I think it's a good idea," Rachel Adams, an HISD grandparent, said.
She said she worries about her grandson's education and overall experience in the district.
"Hopefully with somebody doing their due diligence, they'll be able to pick the right people that would make a big change in the system that would benefit the kids," Adams said.
Gov. Abbott's response
The governor spoke about the situation during an event in Austin, saying that Texas has an obligation to its students and should come together to reinvent the district so that kids are provided a better quality education.
"There has been a long-time failure by HISD and the victims of that failure are the students," Abbott said.
Abbott said the takeover will allow HISD to be set on a course so that the district will no longer fail its students.
"But know this, when I talk about what we're gonna do going forward, some have suggested this will be used for parental empowerment and things like that," Abbott said. "All of that is completely separate from what's happening with HISD."