Texas school board candidates concentrate on funding, maintaining accountability
By Lauren Dixon
Ten of the top enrollment districts in Texas, including its largest, Houston Independent School District, will hold elections on November 5, 2013 for 28 seats collectively. There are 44 candidates running for election, 24 of whom are incumbents. Both Aldine Independent School District and New Caney Independent School District were scheduled to have board elections, but they were canceled as all incumbents were running unopposed. Aldine ISD will still hold a special election for one seat to fill the vacancy left by retired member Marine Jones. The bulk of Texas school districts held their elections in May, with 63 top enrollment districts sending their voters to the ballot box earlier this year. With a little more than a week left until election day, candidates cite everything from inadequate funding to fostering community engagement as issues they intend to conquer during their tenure.
Candidates in Houston ISD, the seventh-largest district in the United States, and Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, the third-largest district in Texas, disagree on the best means of using scarce district resources to meet the various needs of the many students enrolled. Regardless of their debate over methodology, candidates from both districts agree that their top priority ought to be maintaining accountability and high standards for their districts. Houston ISD is still struggling with the deep budget cuts in public education imposed in 2011 and adjusting to a narrowly approved tax rate increase. The increase aims to help fund pay raises, as well as the district's Apollo reform program, which allows for specially hired tutors and longer school days. Longtime incumbent Lawrence Marshall of Houston's District 9, is not seeking re-election and is currently under FBI criminal investigation for allegedly taking vendor money.
Spotlight: Beaumont Independent School District
Until September, it was unclear if the BISD would hold school board elections due to a redistricting controversy. Three candidates who filed to run for the school board in May sued the school district, alleging that the current board had failed to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by not properly dividing the voting districts before the upcoming election. This delayed the election indefinitely until a new election date in November was approved on September 24 by Judge Donald Floyd of the 172nd District Court. The election will use a federally approved district map from 2001.
- News Stories, "Aldine ISD Trustees cancel regular board election," accessed October 24, 2013
- Charles Kuffner, Off the Kuff, "Demagnetized," published October 19, 2013
- Ericka Mellon, The Houston Chronicle, "In close vote, HISD approves 3-cent tax rate increase," published October 11, 2013
- Ericka Mellon, The Houston Chronicle, "Longtime HISD trustee opts not to seek re-election," published August 27, 2013
- David Yates, The Southeast Texas Record, "Board candidates appeal ruling allowing BISD elections to move forward," published September 25, 2013