Four Harris County Department of Education trustees cancelled the department’s contract with HillCo Partners, the group contracted to represent HCDE in Austin. HCDE The move comes as State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R), a long-time opponent of the department, has pressed for hostile state takeover of HISD and other electoral adjustments to the school board.
Voting in favor of ending the contract were Mike Wolfe (R), Don Sumners (R), Josh Flynn (R), George Moore (R). Voting to maintain representation were Richard Cantu (D), Eric Dick (R), and Danny Norris (D). The board also voted to make Flynn President for the upcoming term. Dick was the expected favorite to be the next board president. .
Immediately before taking the vote, Board Vice President Dick said, “So the Republicans are more interested in breaking stuff than actually doing anything. That is another reason that we continue to lose. Y’all be careful. I’m going against this because there are a lot of problems. I don’t want it on my hands. That’s blood. It’s y’all’s hands. Y’all can be responsible for it, not me.”
A constituent confronted Trustee Wolfe after the meeting, asking “Do you think that not having people represented in Austin is going to leave these families high and dry when they are trying to use these programs and the Department of Education gets shut down from Bettencourt’s bill?”
Wolfe responded “He doesn’t have a bill yet,” prompting the reply, “It’s coming. And you know what you’re doing.”
The Harris County Department of Education has been under similar threat for several years. In 2017, during the last legislative session, Bettencourt filed two bills calling for privatization of the department: one gradual, one for immediate abolition. Both bills died in the session. In March of 2017, Trustee Sumners indicated displeasure at a meeting after being told by the Department attorney attending the meeting that according to the law there could be no vote to abolish the department thanks to how an agenda item was written. At the following board meeting in April, having heard of Sumners interest in privatizing the department, constituents packed the room and spoke in opposition. Attendees included Pearland ISD trustee Mike Floyd, then a candidate for his school board race and a Senior in high school.
Daniel J. Cohen