Katy ISD urged to adopt single-member districts

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 12/29/22

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, at the behest of a group of Katy ISD parents, is asking Katy ISD to change from at-large trustee representation to single-member district representation for future trustee elections, beginning with the May 2023 election.

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Katy ISD urged to adopt single-member districts


The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, at the behest of a group of Katy ISD parents, is asking Katy ISD to change from at-large trustee representation to single-member district representation for future trustee elections, beginning with the May 2023 election.

“As you know, all seven members of the Katy ISD Board of Trustees are elected at large by voters district-wide to specific numbered places,” the letter, written by NAACP assistant counsel Antonio Ingram II, said. “Katy ISD has used this practice since it became a school district in the early 20th century. We believe that this at-large system dilutes the votes of Katy ISD’s voters of color and may violate the voting rights act because it prevents Black and Latinx voters from electing their preferred candidates to the Board of Trustees and from participating in the electoral process on an equal footing.”

Cameron “Cam” Campbell is a Katy ISD parent and is among those who worked with the NAACP to prepare and send the letter. Earlier this year he unsuccessfully sought election to the Texas House of Representatives from the Katy portion of Harris County.

The letter was sent to Greg Schulte, position 5 trustee and school board president. Efforts to reach Schulte for comment by press time were unsuccessful.

Ingram wrote that the board had several possible courses of action for ensuring “that all members of the Katy ISD community are able to participate equally” in shaping Katy ISD’s educational decisions. He wrote that the most effective option would be to change from at-large elections to trustee elections from single-member districts.

“Elections from single-member districts would ensure that the diverse communities residing in different parts of the district would all be able to elect candidates from their local area, leading to a more representative board of trustees,” Ingram wrote.

According to its website, Katy ISD has an enrollment of 92,914 students as of Dec. 26. Here is a breakdown of students by ethnicity:

  • Asian: 15,542, or 16.7%.
  • Black: 13,204, or 14.2%.
  • Hispanic, 33,766, or 36.3%.
  • Native American: 208, or 0.2%.
  • Pacific Islander: 108, or 0.1%.
  • Two or more races: 3,963, or 4.3%.
  • White: 26,123, or 28.1%.

Much of the growth is taking place in the north and northwest areas of the district. The district’s northernmost high school, Paetow, 23111 Stockdick School Road, opened in 2017. It has a student population breakdown that is 49% Hispanic, 23% Asian, 17% White, 6% Black, and 3% two or more races, according to the district.

Ingram provided an example figure that illustrated how a single-district representation map might look. Under this plan, Ingram wrote that four of the districts would be majority-minority districts.

Ingram wrote that the example was one of several versions of a seven-single-member school board map that can be drawn with multiple majority-Black and Latinx districts in northern Katy.

While most school districts in Texas have at-large representation exclusively, not all of them do. Richardson ISD, near Dallas, recently adopted single-member districts. According to its website, five of the seven trustees on the Richardson ISD board are elected from single-member districts. The other two trustees are elected at-large.

The single-member district issue has been raised in at least one previous Katy ISD trustee campaign. Local attorney Scott Martin called for single-member districts in an unsuccessful 2018 trustee campaign.

Not immediately clear now is whether the NAACP is approaching only Katy ISD for such changes, or whether it is approaching other school districts in a similar fashion.

But other options are available to trustees, Ingram wrote. Among these are:

  • Cumulative voting in at-large elections.
  • Requirements for more diverse representation on the board, such as a requirement that all board members reside in different school attendance zones. According to the map Ingram provided, all seven trustees live south of Interstate 10.
  • Moving the election date to November, when other significant races are on the ballot, therefore increasing voter turnout.

“Whatever method or methods the Katy ISD Board of Trustees chooses to ensure a more fair and equitable electoral process for choosing its members, we urge the board to act with all deliberate speed, as failure to act could expose the Katy ISD to liability under the VRA (Voting Rights Act),” Ingram wrote.

The seats held by Position 3 Trustee Ashley Vann, Position 4 Trustee Leah Wilson and Schulte will be up for election in May. Filing deadline is Jan. 18. The board’s next regular meeting is set for Jan. 23.

Ingram requested the district respond in writing by Jan. 6. Trustees are set to meet Jan. 23.

Katy ISD, NAACP, single-member districts