A Dallas schools trustee and investment manager will lead the Texas Education Agency.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday appointed Mike Morath to oversee the state's 1,200 school districts and charter schools.
Morath replaces Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, who in October cited family reasons and said he would leave at year's end. Williams led TEA since 2012 and served in state government more than 16 years.
Morath graduated from Garland High School and later taught computer science at his alma mater. Morath holds a bachelor's degree from The George Washington University. He was elected to the Dallas Independent School District board in 2011. He represents parts of North and East Dallas.
Morath is chairman of Morath Investments. He recently served as president of Minute Menu Systems, providing information systems to help manage a federal child nutrition program.
Dallas ISD says the school board will determine a date for a special election to fill Morath's seat. Morath's term on the Dallas school board expires in 2017.
In a statement, the district cited Morath's support of the controversial Teacher Excellence Initiative, which bases teacher pay on merit, not years of service, as well as encouraging the expansion of early-childhood programs.
What the governor says
“The State of Texas is exceptional, and our education system must be too,” Abbott said in a statement. “A proven education reformer, Mike Morath will not accept the status quo in our schools. He is committed to innovative solutions that will empower Texas principals, teachers, and students to strive for the highest in education excellence. Mike Morath has led climbs up Mount Rainier and climbed the 20,305 foot Island Peak near Mount Everest. Now he will help Texas education reach new heights.”
What Morath says
"I’m honored by Governor Abbott’s appointment, and for the opportunity to serve our kids with a focus on improving student outcomes,” Morath said in a statement. “As a DISD trustee, I watched with amazement the tremendous skill and love our teachers and staff pour into our students every day. I realize that no school system’s students can outperform their teachers, and supporting our teachers to improve teaching quality are essential in our public education system. I look forward to advancing that quality, as well as student outcomes, to ensure Texas becomes the number one school system in the nation.”
What Williams says
“I congratulate Mike Morath on his appointment as commissioner of education. I hope he finds this job as exciting and rewarding as I have,” Williams said in a statement. Williams is resigning effective Jan. 1. “Mike’s experience as a school board member and an innovative business leader will serve him well as he makes decisions that impact our state’s more than 1,200 school districts and charters.”
What the American Federation of Teachers Texas branch says
"It is no secret that Mike Morath, as a member of the Dallas ISD school board, has often been at odds with Dallas teachers, parents, and much of the DISD community over matters of educational policy," president Louis Malfaro said in a statement. "These include his embrace of a failed "home rule" initiative seeking exemption from state quality standards and safeguards and of a local system of teacher evaluation and compensation that misuses the scores of teachers' students on standardized tests.
Now, as the governor's choice to serve as state education commissioner, Mr. Morath has a chance to make a fresh start in a spirit of collaboration with Texas educators on the agenda Gov. Abbott set out in announcing this appointment ... "
Reaction from Dallas ISD
“I am proud to have worked alongside Trustee Morath, who has served as an innovative and forward-looking member of our board,” Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said in a statement.
Board President Eric Cowan said in a statement: “Trustee Morath has brought balanced and positive leadership to our board and will be missed. We wish him well as he takes to a larger stage to contribute to the progress and improvements of our state’s public education system.”
Here’s some background about Morath from the DISD website:
He has had a passion for public education for years, is an avid reader of information about school reform, and believes firmly that our school system can be changed so that all of our students succeed, no matter what their backgrounds.
With a belief system that continually calls him to serve others, Morath has participated in numerous volunteer activities, locally and internationally. He has volunteered in our schools and juvenile justice facilities and as a mentor Big Brother. He helped organize a trip to orphanages in southern India to set up clean running water systems, and he volunteered at an eye clinic in rural Mexico, where he was lucky enough to meet another volunteer, Dr. Laura Vondra, who is now his wife.
And here are more details on Morath from his campaign website.