This is going to be a challenge, assuming it does go forward.
The North Forest Independent School District is nearing the end of its appeals to stay open, paving the way for Houston ISD to take over.
State education commissioner Robert Scott notified the North Forest administration in a letter released Friday that he was officially revoking the district’s accreditation after years of academic and financial woes.
Scott gave notice in July of his intent to close the district, but some in North Forest have remained optimistic that it wasn’t a done deal.
The district can appeal the ruling to Scott, but the commissioner had held strong that the 7,500 North Forest ISD students would be better served in neighboring HISD. The takeover is set to take place at the start of next school year, though HISD officials have said students can start enrolling in the district now.
The U.S. Justice Department still must approve the deal. But if prior rulings involving North Forest are an indication, the federal agency will sign off.
Here’s HISD’s official statement.
Scott has assigned Kay Karr, who is now serving as the Commissioner’s appointed conservator in North Forest, to oversee the district’s closure and annexation.
“It will be the role of the conservator to facilitate the annexation process in conjunction with the Houston ISD to ensure a smooth transition and transfer for the district and its students,” Scott wrote in his letter addressed to North Forest ISD officials.
HISD Board President Paula Harris and Superintendent Terry Grier said they are committed to working with North Forest leaders, parents, students, staff, and Ms. Karr to prepare for the upcoming school year.
“While HISD did not seek this annexation, we stand ready to welcome the entire North Forest community into the HISD family,” Harris said. “We believe all children have the ability to excel in the classroom. We will hold ourselves accountable for making sure that happens.”
Working in partnership with the North Forest community, HISD’s first priority will be to improve the level of academic rigor in North Forest’s neighborhood schools, Grier said.
“Strong neighborhood schools are the foundation of strong communities,” Grier said. “The work that is underway in HISD to place a great teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every school will benefit the children of North Forest, just as it has in HISD.”
NFISD is the poorest district in Harris County. During a period NFISD made $1,711 per student in property taxes. Despite having a higher tax rate than Deer Park Independent School District, that district made $7,021 per student in property taxes. As of 2003 the NFISD attendance zone had very little industry.
In 2006 the area within NFISD had the lowest property value per student ratio in Harris County. Its property value per student ratio was less than half of the average ratio in the State of Texas. Within the district, in 2006 the typical single family house was appraised to be worth $51,106. 42 of the 15,637 houses within the NFISD boundaries had an appraised value greater than $200,000.
You want a good example of why local property taxes are a poor way to fund public schools, there you have it. How can anyone claim that the kids in NFISD get the same opportunity as kids in other districts given the vast difference in tax revenues? Obviously, they get support from the state that evens things out a bit, but come on. There’s no way they’re getting what they need.
You can see a map of the NFISD territory here; you may need to zoom in a little. My initial thoughts are that this ought to be a good deal for the children and parents of NFISD, as they will now have all of HISD’s schools to choose from, and that I wonder how the addition of NFISD will affect HISD’s Trustee districts. I sense that we may have some mid-decade redistricting in our future. At least, I’m assuming that NFISD’s Board would be dissolved, and the new territory would be worked into HISD with the existing districts adjusted as needed. That may also mean special elections, but I’m just guessing here. Anyone know what precedents there may be?
UPDATE: North Forest isn’t going without a fight.