Lawsuit seeks to stop Houston school board’s ouster by TEA

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Calling the Texas Education Agency’s investigation into alleged misconduct by the Houston school board “one-sided,” attorneys for the board are suing to stop the replacement of the panel, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The lawsuit claims that TEA failed to fully investigate allegations of malfeasance and violated the rights of the nine elected trustees.

Two weeks ago, TEA investigators, following a six-month look into the Houston school district situation, reported that several trustees had violated state open meetings laws, overstepped their roles in governance and improperly influenced who got district contracts.

Jason Hewitt, director of the TEA’s Special Investigations Unit, recommended that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath replace the board due to its “demonstrated inability to appropriately govern, inability to operate within the scope of their authority, circumventing the authority of the superintendent and inability to ensure proper contract procurement laws are followed.”

The board’s lawyers say those conclusions are “unsupported by credible evidence,” the newspaper reported.

Instead, the lawsuit argues that TEA officials were determined to oust the Houston board from the onset, and because of that they didn’t do a full investigation. The complaint also alleges that TEA violated federal civil rights laws by replacing elected school boards in districts where the majority of residents are non-white, the Chronicle reported.

The lawsuit was initially filed in June in an attempt to preempt state sanctions against trustees for allegedly violating the open meetings law. The amended complaint filed on Friday expands the members’ defense in response to the specific TEA investigators’ allegations.

The Chronicle reported that attorneys for TEA had not yet filed a response.

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