88th LegislatureEducationState HouseStatewide News‘Stank Leadership’: Texas Rep. Dutton Resigns from Legislative Black Caucus

Dutton has clashed with the caucus before over education policy and was excluded from an upcoming policy event.
March 27, 2023
Following increasing tension over policy differences and his exclusion from an upcoming policy summit, Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) has publicly resigned from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TXLBC) with harsh words for caucus chair Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City).

First elected to the state House in 1984, Dutton is the former chair of the House Education Committee and the TXLBC, but the caucus did not invite him to participate in an upcoming 50th Anniversary Legislative Summit scheduled for April 2-4.

Dutton has recently clashed with fellow Democrats over the state’s upcoming intervention in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). While some Houston-area legislators accused Gov. Greg Abbott of engineering a takeover of the troubled district for political purposes, Dutton has repeatedly reminded the public he is the author of the 2015 legislation mandating action from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in districts with chronically failing schools.

In his resignation letter, Dutton noted he had been excluded from participation in not only the public education panel but from all policy panels at the upcoming summit.

“Perhaps that is your way of retaliating for the policy differences between us or as reported, you are simply trying to help your friend who desires to be a state representative,” wrote Dutton. “Either way, you are engaging in stank leadership which ignores the plight of Black Texans.”

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According to documents obtained by The Texan, the TXLBC’s education policy discussion scheduled for April 4 only includes one member of the caucus: Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston).

Other panelists listed include state Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio); Kimberly McLeod, Ed.D, past president of the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators; Ovida Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association and a teacher in Alief ISD near Houston; and State Board of Education Member Aicha Davis.

Dutton also wrote that he had come to Reynold’s “rescue” when he had criminal issues, and lamented, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

In 2015, a Montgomery County jury convicted Reynolds on multiple counts of barratry, or illegally soliciting clients for his personal injury practice. He spent nearly four months in jail in 2018, during which he was re-elected by Houston voters, and the following year he was disbarred by the State Bar of Texas.

According to emails obtained by The Texan, after Dutton submitted his resignation, Reynolds replied that he hoped he would reconsider and that the panelist list was only a draft.

“With respect to the education panel I thought that with everything going on with the TEA takeover of HISD and your direct involvement it would potentially cause a major uproar with protestors attending the panel,” wrote Reynolds, who said he would make sure Dutton would be included.

Following the announcement of the HISD takeover earlier this month, Reynolds had called the move a “dark day.”

As chair of the House Public Education Committee in 2021, Dutton also drew the ire of Democrats when he resurrected a bill requiring public school athletes to compete according to their biological sex. Although he had initially abstained from a committee vote sinking the legislation, two days later he revived and voted for the bill as a “consequence” of Allen voting to kill his legislation meant to strengthen public school accountability.

A graduate of Wheatley High School, one of the HISD schools that has struggled to meet academic standards, Dutton has been a vocal advocate for reforms to improve student achievement and frequently cites student achievement statistics indicating that only about 30 percent of black students in HISD can read at grade level.

Regarding his 2015 legislation creating a state intervention mechanism, Dutton said he thought the bill would motivate the district to improve the schools.

“I thought they would fix the school, but HISD did nothing,” said Dutton.

Although Wheatley High School achieved a “C” rating for the 2021-2022 school year, Kashmere High School and nine other HISD schools failed to attain minimum scores and are listed as “not rated.” Highland Heights Elementary School has not achieved an acceptable performance rating since 2011.

The TXLBC did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

Update: On Wednesday, Reynolds announced that the TXLBC Legislative Summit had been postponed since the Legislature would be taking up budget deliberations next week.

A copy of Dutton’s resignation letter can be found below.


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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.