A possible ray of hope for supporters of North Forest ISD, which is still hoping to survive past July 1 when the TEA’s order for it to be subsumed into HISD takes effect.
The chief of the Justice Department’s voting section wrote a letter to the Texas Education Agency saying federal officials need to know how HISD plans to redraw its school board boundaries to encompass North Forest. The Justice Department must sign off on the annexation to ensure fair treatment of minority voters under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said state officials believe HISD must send a letter to the Justice Department explaining its plans for redistricting.
David Thompson, an attorney for HISD, said the district can relay some options to the Justice Department but he thinks it would be premature for the school board to take official action until the annexation is official.
“It’s a little bit of the chicken or the egg,” said Ratcliffe of the TEA.
The State Office of Administrative Hearings ruled last week that the annexation could proceed, but the TEA also needs clearance from the Justice Department.
Chris Tritico, an attorney representing North Forest in its effort to block the closure, said he was optimistic the Justice Department ultimately would deny the annexation. He noted that all seven of the North Forest school board members are black, while HISD’s nine-member board includes four Anglos. But like those in North Forest, the majority of students in HISD are black and Hispanic.
The Forward Times has a copy of the letter from the Justice Department. Hard to know what to make of this, and as with everything else it may be affected by the forthcoming SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act. The NFISD Board of Trustees has refused an order from the TEA to terminate its teachers in anticipation of the IHSD takeover, so one way or another there’s still a lot of action to take place.