Presenting this mostly without comment.
A Houston Landing review of the newly appointed board’s political contributions, public statements and work history suggests the nine members likely will govern from the political center, avoiding education culture wars galvanizing the right and forgoing the preferred policies of union-aligned progressives on the left.
In doing so, they would mirror the blueprint set in recent years by Morath, who has largely forsaken political red meat while aggressively working to reshape how Texas public school districts operate.
Many of HISD’s new board members are relatively new to education and politics, making it difficult to definitively discern their philosophies. HISD officials didn’t respond to requests to interview board members for this article.
But public data and background information sheds some light on their potential middle-of-the-road leanings.
Campaign finance records show four board members — Michelle Arnold Cruz, Janette Garza Lindner, Audrey Momanaee and Angela Lemond Flowers — have donated exclusively to Democratic candidates and political action committees on the federal and state level in the past five election cycles. Their contributions totaled $5,150.
The board’s biggest political benefactor during that time, real estate executive Ric Campo, has given the vast majority of his roughly $718,000 in contributions to Republicans, including $75,000 to Abbott’s campaign. He has also supported more moderate Democrats in recent years, most notably dedicating $32,000 to U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, since 2019.
Another board member, entrepreneur Paula Mendoza, earmarked most of her nearly $15,000 in contributions for Democrats in recent election cycles — though she gave $3,500 to Abbott’s campaign in the late 2010s.
The Landing did not find records of the three remaining board members — Cassandra Auzenne Bandy, Rolando Martinez and Adam Rivon — making federal or state political contributions in recent years.
On the education front, three board members’ employment histories and public statements reflect approaches to education that align more closely with Morath than teacher unions.
When Garza Lindner ran for HISD trustee in 2021, a race she lost by 48 votes to union-backed incumbent Elizabeth Santos, her platform included placing HISD’s “most effective” teachers in struggling schools, a priority Miles immediately announced upon his appointment.
Garza Lindner also cited state standardized testing data as a window into student and teacher performance. Union leaders have consistently argued that standardized testing data is more indicative of a child’s socioeconomic status than academic performance.
Lemond Flowers, meanwhile, worked in recent years at Teach for America, an organization that places college graduates from non-education backgrounds in schools predominantly serving students from lower-income families. Some union advocates argue that Teach for America is too cozy with charter school operators and too often backs more-conservative education policies.
Cruz Arnold works as vice president of government relations and advocacy for the College Board, a nonprofit that develops SAT and Advanced Placement exams. She previously held similar roles with the TEA and Greater Houston Partnership.
The newly appointed board is notably devoid of staunchly union-aligned members, a stark contrast from recent HISD boards. As recently as 2018, union-endorsed candidates held eight out of the nine HISD board seats. That number had dropped to four prior to the board’s ouster.
I appreciate Houston Landing for doing this research. I wasn’t that scared of the Board being stacked with Greg Abbott minions, but it was hardly out of the question, and as such (and as I have said before), we could have done much worse. None of this resolves any of the persistent questions about the legitimacy of the takeover or the disenfranchisement of the HISD community.