Since 1995 only four school districts in Texas have had their accreditation revoked by the Texas Education Agency, but last summer Premont district and North Forest district received letters from the state education commissioner stating that years of financial mismanagement and a poor academic record meant that they were to be shut down. In a change of normal policy, however, TEA has allowed the districts a one year reprieve to make significant financial and academic progress. If they don’t do enough and one ends up becoming the fifth district to be closed down in the last 17 years it will serve as a warning to a number of other district’s that may find themselves in the TEA firing line.
Of the state’s 1,024 school districts, nearly 50 have been identified as “unacceptable” — which means less than 65 percent of their students passed state math exams and less than 70 percent passed them in reading. The ratings also take dropout and graduation rates into account. Those worst-performing districts serve a higher percentage of low-income and minority students — and on average, receive less in funding — than their higher-rated counterparts.
If the under-fire districts don’t win reprieves then their students, and attached tax dollars, will be absorbed by neighboring districts. This is unpopular within the local communities concerned who argue that decisions about their youth should be made locally, but while people argue about the benefits, or lack thereof, of district closures in truth the occurrence is so rare that barely any research exists as to the effects of such actions on the children involved.
Other advocates argue that Texas hasn’t been strict enough about closing districts — especially when schools have experienced decades of poor academic performance and financial mismanagement.
North Forest first faced state intervention in the late 1980s and has teetered on the brink of failure since.