Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is criticizing Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles for closing school libraries in exchange for new facilities.

In June, the Texas Education Agency officially took over the Houston Independent School District after Houston schools repeatedly failed their state evaluations. 

Since the takeover, the TEA has installed Mike Miles, a former superintendent of Dallas ISD and CEO of Third Future Schools, as the temporary Houston ISD superintendent. 

Miles’ first move was to introduce the “New Education System,” centering on restructuring departments and cutting positions to increase pay for remaining teachers. 

The first big slash saw 1,675 job openings and 672 filled positions cut. This included transferring the responsibilities of 331 positions to other departments.

Now, the most recent—and controversial—move by Miles removed libraries from certain schools in exchange for “Team Centers,” which are disciplinary centers that allow students to continue learning under supervision through Zoom schooling.

Miles stressed that the library books would still be available to students and that the decision to eliminate certain school libraries came from the desire to move librarians to more important positions.

He also emphasized in a community meeting that this is not a move to discourage literacy, but rather a restructuring, citing his plans to introduce curriculum centered on reading and the science of reading into the district classrooms.

Back in June, Miles did foreshadow his move, telling the Houston Chronicle, “I’d rather have a high-quality teacher getting paid a lot, than have a librarian doing what, checking out books?”

On the contrary, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has emphasized his belief that libraries and librarians are essential to the school’s success, arguing that these resources should not be sacrificed in the restructuring. 

Miles responded by inviting him and any other community leaders to tour the NES schools.

Although the Houston Chronicle also urged Turner to accept Miles’ invitation, he refused, stating, “I do not need to tour a disciplinary center in a space where there was a library.”

The community reaction has likewise been split. Many parents attended Miles’ community meetings, asked questions, and applauded, while others have been upset with the changes and around 100 people attended a rally last Saturday in protest against the shuttering of the libraries.

Micah Rice

A summer writing fellow for Texas Scorecard, Micah has an interest in spreading the truth about Texas politics.