More on the Spring Branch ISD single member district lawsuit

Good story from KTRK.

The unofficial dividing line for the two sides: I-10 running through the district.

With two boys in the district, Carla Cooper-Molano has seen the battle scars, and she wants someone on the school board who represents her family living north of I-10.

“If I communicate to the board, these are my needs, this is what I need, this is what my community at school needs, they are drowned by a much larger vested interest from the south,” said Cooper-Molano.

Cooper-Molano said the majority of SBISD students come from lower-income, working-class families, whose struggles range from paying rent to buying school supplies, to putting food on the table every night.

The disconnect comes when you look at the makeup of the current SBISD school board. According to a recently filed federal civil rights lawsuit, the majority of SBISD’s board members live south of I-10, in more affluent and less diverse neighborhoods. In fact, a person of color has never won a seat on the school board. According to the district’s own data, SBISD’s student body is 59% Hispanic, and 27% white.

The lawsuit alleges that having every school board member elected “at-large,” meaning they represent the entire district instead of neighborhoods, violates the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it dilutes the voting power of minorities. The plaintiff who filed the suit is Virginia Elizondo, a former teacher at SBISD with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. Elizondo ran twice for the school board, most recently in 2021. This time, she came up short against Chris Earnest, a Memorial area consultant.

Elizondo and supporters of the lawsuit are asking for single-member districts to be drawn. Under this scenario, board members will be elected to represent specific areas of the district, not the entire district. It’s similar to how the House of Representatives elects its members, and how Houston ISD elects its school board members. Houston City Council, for example, has a hybrid model. There are five at-large seats in addition to the district seats.

Nina Perales, the vice president of the Latino legal rights organization Legal Services for MALDEF, has fought similar battles in other cities across Texas. She explains that the plaintiff will need to show the courts there is no opportunity for minorities to elect a candidate of their choice.

“If the majority of voters consistently prefer one candidate, and minority voters consistently prefer another candidate, it’s simple math. The majority is always going to outvote the minority in every single seat,” said Perales.

See here for some background, and here for some demographic data about SBISD. The fight is contentious in part because a loud contingent of SBISD parents from the wealthy part of the district don’t think that the SBISD board is opposing it strongly enough, and they want to have one of them added as a defendant in the lawsuit. If the plaintiffs win, past history suggests they will be able to elect someone to the Board; a recent example cited in the story is Richardson ISD, in the Dallas area. I don’t know what the litigation schedule is – these things can take years to resolve – but I’ll keep an eye on it.

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6 Responses to More on the Spring Branch ISD single member district lawsuit

  1. David Fagan says:

    25 days and counting………

  2. Frederick says:


    Thanks for the update on this lawsuit.

    It would be nice to see some balanced representation on the SBISD board.

  3. Souperman says:

    I’m a north-side SBISD graduate, and it was always obvious where the resources were being spent – and it wasn’t on us; it was on the schools that really didn’t need help. I’m sure the board talked a good game on “equality”, but it isn’t helpful when half of the district has enough resources already.

    When I see my family, I drive past “don’t HISD my SBISD” yard signs in Spring Valley Village (north-side, but zoned to a south-side high school, Memorial), so I see what you mean on some of the wealthier homeowners thinking that the district isn’t fighting it hard enough.

  4. mollusk says:

    For many years the Katy Freeway served as the dividing line among the schools, as well. The given reason was to avoid having buses full of kids crossing the railroad tracks.

  5. Ross says:

    SBISD attitudes across the freeway are summarized well by something a friend told me 20 years ago. His kids went to Spring Woods HS, North of the freeway. The band needed 2 string bass instruments and heard that Memorial HS had 6 or 7 more than would ever be needed in storage. They asked Memorial about the possibility of getting two of the surplus instruments, and were told that “no, the instruments were donated to Memorial, not the District, and you need to budget to buy your own”.

    Several colleagues at work bought houses zoned to Memorial, since it has a reputation as being a great school. After their kids graduated, their general opinion was they could have sent their kids anywhere and had success, without having to deal with the bullshit the rich kids tend to spew. The only thing they thought was better at Memorial was the drugs, which are apparently primo compared to the other schools.

  6. C.L. says:

    So to get more north side representation, all that’s needed is for the north siders to vote for their north side candidate ?

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