The Houston Independent School District board of trustees has approved spending almost $1.25 million of taxpayer money to rename eight schools to erase any trace of tie-ins to Confederate history.
The money is to be used for such items as new band and athletic uniforms and temporary banners bearing the new name of the school, writes Merrill Hope for Breitbart Texas. The total is less than the original estimate of $2 million made by the board last year.
In June, a lawsuit was filed against the school board by community members who argued that the schools are monuments under state law. The Houston Chronicle reports that the attorneys representing the plaintiffs said that Houston ISD should get authorizations from state agencies that are in charge of historical preservation before they begin to change the names of the schools. The district disagreed.
Also, some parents want more transparency and accountability from their school board:
“We find this number ($1.25 million) very suspect as they have yet to produce any documentation to support this number. The district has been all over the map regarding numbers including saying it would cost $2 million, then $1 million, then $7.83 million,” said Adrienne Murry, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for the Houston ISD said the cost needed for renaming the schools was still being determined, but the final number would be approximately $2 million or less.
Murray said during the board meeting that board members should consider funding classrooms in a district with high percentages of poor performing schools. Breitbart Texas says that about 40% of Houston ISD’s schools were rated as failing or low-performing based on poor ratings on standardized testing. Houston ISD has more failing schools than any other district in the state.
But trustee Jolanda Jones said she wants to fight for “equity,” and added that some people want to use money as an excuse “to stop equity and equality and respect of all races.”
Graham Media Group’s Lea Wilson writes that one parent said the board should stop focusing on issues that are not important and must start concentrating on the children by spending money on kids rather than buildings.
The court heard oral arguments and testimony over two days. Briefs will be submitted to the bench this week and next, and a decision should come shortly after that.
After the shootings of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, where the Confederate flag was flying over the statehouse, the nation began to take action to remove Confederate symbols from public spaces.
Dowling Middle School was named after Confederate Army Officer Richard Dowling. However, the school is presently 57.7% Hispanic, 40.3% African-American, 0.4% Asian, and 1.1% white, according to district data from the academic year 2013-2014, reports Ericka Mellon for The Houston Chronicle.
The district maintains that the precise amount of money needed to change the names of the schools cannot be known until the renaming decision is made and exact calculations are tabulated.