The House Redistricting Committee is holding its hearing today on whether the 15-member State Board of Education and its ginormous districts are appropriately sized.
A House Redistricting committee will study the merits of expanding the board to creating smaller districts, which are now nearly double the size of state Senate or congressional districts.
A hearing on Tuesday is unlikely to produce a consensus as many conservatives prefer the current configuration.
Conservative blogger and retired educator Donna Garner wrote recently that a larger board will become more unwieldy, less effective and erode the influence of conservative members.
“If more SBOE districts are created, then this will mean an even better chance for the left-leaning Republicans and the Democrats in the Texas Legislature to divide up SBOE districts so that conservative influence will be marginalized,” Garner wrote.
House Redistricting Chair Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, recommended that House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, order an interim study on possible board expansion.
“What concerned me were the size of the districts and the sheer number of people in those districts,” Solomons said. “You start wondering, ‘is that just too many people, especially since they don’t have any real staff?’”
Solomons’ committee will issue a report later this year for future lawmakers to consider.
“You need to do something so there’s a sense that you’re representing the people in your district and the children in the school districts and the parents of school children,” he said. “How do you communicate with all these people?”
Actually, SBOE districts are more than twice the size of Senate and Congressional districts, as there are fewer than half as many of SBOE districts as there are the others. Garner’s complaint that a larger SBOE would mean less influence for conservatives is both accurate and what I consider a feature – it’s also the direct result of a larger SBOE being necessarily more diverse and representative of the state as a whole. As for her other complaints, it’s nigh impossible to imagine the SBOE being less effective than it already is, and the “more unwieldy” argument is just silly; the State House has ten times as many members, and for all its many flaws it generally manages to get stuff done in a short period of time.
As I’ve said before, the question is not so much whether the SBOE is the right size but why we need it to be geographically based. If it must be that way, then I’d suggest making SBOE and State Senate districts one and the same, which if nothing else would save time and money in the redistricting process. Beyond that, I have no idea what the best thing to do with it is. I look forward to seeing what the committee recommends.