HISD board adds two conservatives crediting local pushback to CRT, COVID mandates – The Center Square

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(The Center Square) – Voters in the Democratic stronghold of Harris County, the state's largest school district, ousted two school board members, reportedly fed up with prolonged mask mandates, poor academic performance and board members who don't appear to respect parental involvement.This past weekend, newcomers flipped two out of four open seats in a run-off election for Houston ISD school board members.Pastor Kendall Baker beat incumbent Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca by less than 100 votes to win District 6's seat. In District 7, former PTO President Bridget Wade beat Trustee Anne Sung.It's the first time conservatives will be on the nine-person board since 2019.The run-off election went largely under the radar, with less than 7% of registered voters voting in District 6 and 12% voting in District 7.Both districts traditionally leaned Republican, although school board members are nonpartisan.Some voters expressed motivation to end Houston ISD's prolonged mask mandate implemented by the district's superintendent, which defies Gov. Greg Abbott's order prohibiting mandates. Adding to local voter enthusiasm were videos of board members not allowing parents to speak at board meetings or waiting hours to speak.Newly elected Bridget Wade told the Houston Chronicle that her win "speaks to the fact that people want to have a say in their public education as taxpayers and parents and families, people want to be active participants and be heard."After her win, she told reporters that "Parents, children and taxpayers" deserve school board members who will be "open and honest with them."Pastor Baker of Christ Solid International Church, a Black leader in his community, has been a vocal opponent of mask mandates and so-called Critical Race Theory, an issue of concern raised by the Texas Pastor Council, of which Baker is a member. The legislature passed a bill banning CRT from being taught in Texas K-12 public schools this year, which Gov. Abbott signed into law.Three candidates who ran for Cy-Fair ISD's school board, the 3rd largest school district in Texas, won their races, unseating incumbents, the council notes. They all expressed "their belief in Biblical values," the council said, "proving that Christians make a difference when they show up."Electing more people like them and Baker, the council argues, "is one of the pressing issues we face today as our children are being overly sexualized and indoctrinated with CRT, while being socially engineered by radical gender theories as they ignore the basic fundamentals that our schools were created to teach. Add to this the fact that HISD is facing disastrous financial problems because of mismanagement."Recover America and Houston Area Pastor Council also held meetings at Houston area churches to address how Christian voters can bring a new focus to HISD to improve student outcomes after the district has reported failing grades due to poor attendance and abysmal virtual learning efforts and outcomes.The backlash to ongoing mask mandates is believed to have contributed to incumbents being ousted – especially as several school districts in Texas, including Houston ISD, continue to defy Gov. Abbott's order banning them.Several weeks ago, a district court judge struck down Abbott's order banning government entities from requiring facial coverings. Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed and won.On Dec. 1, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Paxton's motion to stay the lower court's ruling. After the ruling, Paxton said Abbott's order "banning mask mandates is THE LAW and was affirmed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals."The district judge had sided with plaintiffs who claimed the order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, suggesting that not wearing a mask put disabled students at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. But Abbott's order doesn't prohibit anyone from wearing a mask. It simply states that Texans can't be mandated to wear them, with exceptions. Those who want to wear them have never been prevented from doing so.School districts still not complying with Abbott's order have been sued by the AG's office.Houston ISD is still enforcing its mask mandate despite the court's ruling. After the verdict, it said in a statement that, "The ruling does not impact the requirement that students, staff, and visitors must wear masks while on HISD property. This mandate remains in place for HISD schools."Although 2 out of 9 board members may not make that much of an impact on voting, conservatives see it as a start to begin a course correction for a board they argue has provided a disservice to parents and students.

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