HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and other school leaders from across the Houston area joined Mayor Sylvester Turner and dozens of elected officials Wednesday in pledging to work together to ensure all children have access to a quality education.
“If we cannot help education and the kids in Houston and the surrounding area, we’re in trouble,” Turner told the crowd of about 125 people who turned out for the evening event. “There’s a lot of brain power in this room.”
The gathering was organized as a welcome reception for Superintendent Carranza, who became the district’s top leader in August after a unanimous vote by the HISD Board of Education. The former leader of the San Francisco United School District and son of working-class immigrants has spent the past two months on the job visiting schools and listening to concerns and questions from parents and community members.
On Wednesday, he reiterated a message of equity that has emerged from those gatherings: “You cannot have a world class city without a world class education,” he said. “We must invest in our children.”
The event came less than 24 hours after voters in Houston rejected a referendum that would have authorized HISD to send $162 million in local property taxes to the State of Texas.
“The school finance system is broken and needs to be fixed,” State Sen. Sylvia Garcia told a room that included many from Houston’s elected delegation. “The big crisis is funding.”
HISD Board President Manuel Rodriguez, Jr. thanked the crowd and his fellow trustees for turning out to support HISD and public education at a time when “our challenges have never been greater.” With the Houston area becoming more diverse, Rodriguez made a call for unity on behalf of all children.
“We need to fight together for change,” Rodriguez said.
HISD Trustee Wanda Adams moderated the event, which featured the Waltrip High School jazz ensemble and also included brief remarks from State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Council Member Robert Gallegos, U.S. Rep. Gene Green, State Sen. and County Commissioner-Elect Rodney Ellis, State Rep. Alma Allen and Houston Community College Chancellor Cesar Maldonado.
Donna Bahorich, chair of the State Board of Education, reminded the group of the influence Texas has on the educational landscape, especially considering the state educates 10 percent of all public school children across the country.
“What we do in Texas,” Bahorich said, “and what we do in HISD, matters not only to Houston but the rest of the country.”