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NAACP raises questions about BISD takeover
From Beaumont NAACP -
Local NAACP Leadership Speaks to Varied Beaumont ISD Concerns
By Paul Jones
Questions That Must be Answered
- Commissioner Williams: Why choose the most extreme measure to fix the district - why not start with a monitor?
- Do you understand the history of Beaumont? Election battle (district take-over)
- Why not give the superintendent and his special accreditation committee an opportunity? What more would you or a BOM do than what he's proposed?
- Did you consider that a tele-town meeting may be disenfranchising to minorities and the poor?
- Why not face us - our children are important to us - you should be here in person?
- Our schools are performing - are they not? So if the concern is about children, why fix what's not broken over politics and the antics of adults?
- I heard BmtISD has a higher graduation rate than the state and the region - if so, how would a state take-over or BOM increase the graduation rate?
- What district that was taken over by TEA improved? Give names and specifics. What programs were cut, what benefits were reduced and what services were no longer provided for students, parents and employees?
- You mention rampant abuse and fraud - give tangible descriptions other than the two people who were indicted. Where else is fraud and by whom?
- Why are you moving so quickly? Aren't the children performing ok?
- Doesn't the district still have money? Didn't they hire professional's contractors to immediately go in and fix the district's financials concerns as identified by the LBB?
- Are you just talking with business leaders - what about parents & pastors? And if parents, are you talking to parents based on student %s and those with children currently attending BISD schools?
- How are you going to guarantee a fair conversation/representation of voices over the phone?
- Your team also recommended until March 2015 to fully implement changes - why rush them?
Some would say this takeover and voiding of the citizens' votes is justified because two employees took advantage of poorly written or non-exiting policies/practices that perhaps could have stopped the illegal activities of these two employees. I must say that the lack of or strongly written policies and procedures did not start in the last few years, these practices have been around for a very long time and have crashed under the present Board and administration.
Because of the presence of a few bad apples, does this justify what many term as appropriate to "throw them all out." They are willing to sacrifice our most precious resource and one of the guaranteed rights for the right to vote and for that vote to count--a Government for the people and by all the people! Many are willing to forget about the rights of the people to choose, "using the election process" to determine who will represent them. These same people are willing to bypass our judicial process and let Mr. Williams and the TEA become Judge, Jury and Executioner of our School District. This is a very slippery slope and I believe some are using the TEA to do what they have unsuccessful tried to do for the last three years--squashing the vote of some Beaumont residents.
Some will be quick to say it's the law and I will be quick to remind them of The Dred Scott Case, The Thirteenth Amendment, The Fourteenth Amendment, The Fifteenth Amendment, Plessy versus Ferguson, The Civil Rights Act, and The Voting Rights Act, all of these Legislative Bills passed by Congress because States, including Texas, had laws that were unfair to people of color, women and other disenfranchised citizens.
I have some very serious concerns about the constitutionality of a TEA takeover of BISD. I feel any takeover of the Board of Trustees, whose members were each elected by the people in their precincts, has no constitutional legs to on which to stand.
Our Constitutional forefathers would have been outraged if it were even suggested that an appointed Commissioner had any right to oust elected representatives of the people. How some who are in favor of this take over and who are largely the people agitating BISD can standby and allow this assault on our constitution only proves their hypocrisy. I see no logic in this. This action by the TEA is unconstitutional. Not letting the people vote will result in crippling the voters' rights to speak for their community. The voting process allows for citizenry to vote out any representatives they feel are not doing the job they were elected to do. Too many people died for voter rights for women and minorities. What TEA proposes to do say those lives was given in vain.
Beaumont is in the midst of a redistricting and the proposed maps are a huge issue in BISD. These maps must be settled before the next Trustee elections. If Commissioner Williams appoints a board of managers who votes on the redistricting map, then that says Commissioner Williams will have drawn our voting lines, not the people of Beaumont.
Commissioner Williams has decided to take our votes away from us, and he in his infinite wisdom will appoint the people to lead BISD. How can this not raise every red flag with anyone who has ever said we should always guard and protect our Constitution? This assault on the Constitution of the United States of America will lead us down a path that eliminates the right for our votes to count. This takeover and voiding our votes by the TEA is un-American. No one should have the power to replace a citizen's right to decide their representatives. This type of action should always be resisted and we should fight with everything we have to make sure it is never successful. I believe the Board's decision to fight this TEA takeover in court is the right thing to do; I commend and support their action.
While I will agree that there are concerns within BISD that are unacceptable and must be addressed, corrected, and improved upon, there is a better way to handle these issues than what has occurred. Voiding out the vote of citizens is not the way.
We have spent three years fighting over a single-member district system versus a combination At-Large single-member system for electing our board members. Everyone that knows a little history about voting equality in our country knows that there is no fairer voting system than the single-member district system. In a single-member district, the elected officials have to live among the people they represent, and only the represented people can vote him/her in or out. Our Constitution guarantees equal representation, protection, access, and equal rights under the law. The most fundamental constitutional principle is equity under the law, regardless of race, gender, and even voter registration. The 1985 single-member plan implemented by the federal court was a promise to all citizens of Beaumont that elections would be conducted fairly and orderly with a chance for everyone to be represented. At-large elections are inherently discriminatory and disenfranchising to ethnic and language minority voters. They are remnants of a broken past. They dilute and provide less representation to minority voters, and they are retrogressive compared to single-member district systems. I am very aware of the decision the Supreme Court made which took away the coverage that only applied to a few states; however, they did not change the law, and therefore did not change what the At-Large voting process is all about. We believe this 5-2 plan does not meet the requirements set out in the Voting Rights Act.
Now the big question that has not been answered and no one seems to want to ask is, "WHY?" Why have we spent time and money trying to take us back in time? Just imagine if we had spent all this effort on improving the District. Maybe we would not be in this predicament of a TEA take over and the down grading of our district's accreditation.
My closing statement is this: Our most valuable resources are our children and our teachers. There should be a collaborative effort of the entire community to help them be the best that they can be. Be assured, if we do not, in the end, we all will pay, and pay dearly. Voiding an entire community's vote and throwing the Constitution of America to the winds is not the way.