The item in question relates to how HISD partners with area charter schools. The proposed revisions to the policy would give parents at an HISD campus the ability to launch a "community-initiated plan" with the support of at least one parent of at least 60% of students enrolled at the school, according to proposed language.
A performance contract would create an avenue for a partnership charter school to serve as an operating partner at the school. The charter school would have to comply with other specifications laid out by the district related to performance metrics while also passing through a vetting process.
According to the proposed policy, HISD Superintendent Millard House II would establish a review committee to conduct an evaluation of each application.
According to the agenda item, the revision fits into a broader System of Great Schools program designed to expand learning opportunities and attract students back to the district. Districts who participate in the four-year program can apply for grant funding to help fund the partnerships.
However, leaders with the Houston Federation of Teachers—the largest teachers union in HISD—said the policy change will take away local power and put it in the hands of state officials and charter school executives.
HFT members gathered with parents, several board members and a group of local representatives Aug. 15 to speak out against the proposal and call for its removal from the meeting agenda. Crowd members gathered held up signs with slogans such as "Charters cherrypick" and "Our schools are not for sale."
Concerns over the agenda item revolve around the fact that charter partnerships could be formed without board input as well as how quickly the agenda item itself will come before the board. The item's significance necessitates more public debate, said Hany Khalil, an HFT vice president and the executive director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.
"This is [a policy] that should be debated for weeks and months before we expand charter schools so willy nilly," he said.
Daniel Santos, executive vice president with the HFT, said the policy would incentivize charter schools to target schools in communities of color, which he said was particularly worrying given that charter schools have more power to choose which students can and cannot be enrolled.
"It opens the doors for charter operators to swoop down like vultures into communities of color and balkanize our public schools," Santos said.
Community Impact Newspaper has reached out to board President Judith Cruz, who placed the item on the agenda, for comment.
The agenda item on the Aug. 18 special meeting agenda is the first reading of the proposed change. Following the discussion at that meeting, a second reading would be scheduled on a future date.