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Clock strikes midnight for North Forest

This was a tough blow for NFISD.

North Forest school officials lost one of their final court battles Wednesday, making the district’s state-ordered merger into HISD five days from now increasingly likely.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner rejected the last-ditch claims by North Forest that the school system’s takeover by the Houston Independent School District would violate the rights of minority voters under federal law.

North Forest has two more long shots to halt the shut down of the school district, with motions in state appellate court and the Texas Supreme Court.

State Education Commissioner Michael Williams has expressed complete confidence that his order to shut down North Forest after decades of academic struggles and financial problems would stick. He issued a statement this week saying he had no doubt the merger with HISD would happen Monday after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about voting rights eliminated a remaining hurdle.

In his order, Hittner noted the “well-documented educational struggles” in North Forest and said that granting a temporary restraining order to halt the annexation was not in the best interest of students.

“In short,” he wrote, “the affected children, the educators, and the state would be severely harmed by the issuance of a TRO.”

Williams’ reference to the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act drew a rebuke from Clay Robison of the TSTA, but he’s right that Justice Department engagement in the North Forest closure was a potential obstacle, and now it’s not any more. Chris Tritico, the attorney representing the NFISD school board members, said in this story that their litigation can continue even after the district and its Board of Trustees is dissolved, since they sued as private citizens as well. However, on Friday the State Supreme Court declined to hear their case, and Tritico conceded defeat. On Monday, the annexation officially begins. Hair Balls has more.

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