Houston school board election system would shift under new Texas Senate bill

The Houston Independent School District (ISD), the nation’s seventh-largest school district by student enrollment, may move to a different school board election system if a new bill introduced in the Texas State Senate is enacted into law.
The Houston ISD school board is currently composed of nine members who are all elected by separate geographic subdistricts. SB 1385, which was introduced by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), would change four of the seats to at-large positions elected by the entirety of the school district’s voting population, which would leave the other five seats still elected by geographic subdistrict.
In a press release, Sen. Bettencourt stated, “Over the years, during testimony from HISD, I have heard that some trustees won’t help with schools on the ‘Improvements Required’ list that TEA maintains. Thus, allowing Kashmere High School to stay on the state closure list for nine years and counting! […] There has to be changes for the betterment of the students, parents, staff, and community. It’s not partisan. It’s not ideological. It’s not where you live, or what you look like, it’s about pure competence to lead the largest school district in the state.”
Bettencourt was first elected to the District 7 seat in the Texas State Senate in 2014, and he was re-elected in 2018 with 57.8 percent of the vote.
Houston ISD Board President Diana Dávila criticized SB 1385 in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. She said, “I’m bothered that he’s doing this, because he has not reached out to us to say, ‘What I can be doing legislatively to help the board?’”
Dávila, who was first elected to the District VIII seat on the school board in 2015, is up for re-election this year. Four seats are up for election in Houston ISD on November 5, 2019. These seats are in Districts II, III, IV, and VIII, and the filing deadline is August 19. The other five seats on the board are currently scheduled to be up for election next in 2021.
In 2019, Ballotpedia is covering school board elections in 179 of America’s school districts. There are 504 school board seats up for grabs across 23 states. Collectively, these districts served 5,764,930 students during the 2016-2017 school year—approximately 11.4 percent of all public school students in the U.S. Of those 179 districts, 64 are in Texas with 183 school board seats on the ballot this year. Those districts enrolled 2,387,738 students during the 2016-2017 school year; Houston ISD enrolled 216,106. Of the 64 Texas districts, 57 are holding their elections on May 4 and seven are holding their elections on November 5.