We’ve all heard the stories from the American Revolution; about Americans throwing tea in Boston Harbor, or about the writing of the Declaration of Independence–and the one thread that runs through all of the stories is the idea that people should not be taxed if they don’t have fair representation. If they cannot have their voices actually represented in the body that makes decisions for them, then it’s not fair representation. We are facing a similar situation in Abilene. As it stands right now Abilene Independent School District, who’s student body is made up of roughly 60% students of color (Black and Latino) have no trustees who are Black or Latino.
Currently the board of trustees is made up of seven board members, five men, two women and all Anglo. And all of the trustees live within Abilene HS limits, not a single trustee currently lives in Cooper HS’s area.
As Drew Bowen, Community Coordinator with Connecting Caring Communities explained in his public statement on June 14th in front of the Board of Trustees, “We’re not angry at them [the Board members]. We’re simply noting that the system that we currently have is set up in a way that rewards people connected to large institutions like universities and the larger churches in town and disproportionately leaves out people from low-income communities” (reporternews.com).
There are so many different problems that people from impoverished communities face that are often not seen by others who have not lived that same life. For example, for a long time we didn’t know how much not eating a healthy breakfast affected a child’s test scores, it wasn’t until researchers began to see a difference in kid’s results and began to narrow down the causes that we even looked at food as a cause. How many other variables or factors are we missing because the board is made up of people who don’t live in these neighborhoods?
This may not seem like an issue to some people, however it is clear, based on some of the problems that have been in the news over the last few years, that AISD has an image problem. Many parents feel that it does not represent their child’s issues and does not understand the families they come from. In fact a group of parents have decided to petition for AISD to change the way that it’s trustees are elected. They are asking for trustees to be elected from pre-set districts across the city, as opposed to citywide elections.
In order for this change to occur the school board must pass it. Unfortunately this seems unlikely as it will mean many of them will not be able to run again, due to the fact that many of the trustees live in the same areas of Abilene. However because of the growing frustration among parents, it would certainly be better for them to listen to the voice of these parents. As we have seen throughout history, it is important to for the majority to listen to the voice of the minority, even if it is hard to hear. And especially in this case, when it is representatives of the majority (60%) asking for representation, it would behoove the leaders to listen.
We don’t want anyone throwing tea in Lake Ft. Phantom!
Happy Voting, Kristina
Note: I wrote in my June 6th column that the City Council was looking at passing a city ordinance that would make it illegal to text and drive. The City, after holding a meeting on June 23, has decided to not pass this ordinance. The City Council has asked the City Administration to begin looking into a PR campaign to deter people from texting while driving.