After Lawsuit Lone Star to Shift to Single Member Districts - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

After Lawsuit Lone Star to Shift to Single Member Districts

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

At the North Harris campus on a sleepy, Fall Friday it's easy to forget Lone Star College has nearly as many students as Texas A&M and UT- Austin - combined.

But unlike those flagship, four year schools, roughly half the students attending Lone Star are either Hispanic or African American.

Call it a reflection of their community and a level of diversity that's never fully found it's way to the College's elected board.

"Hispanics have never been elected to the Lone Star Board and African Americans only rarely," said Mark Jones, Chairman of Political Science at Rice University.

State Representative Armando Walle, who represents the mostly minority Aldine area, says Lone Star's largely white elected leadership left some folks feeling shortchanged by the system.

"We did have a lot of sentiment in my community that our part of town was not being taken care of," said Walle.

This summer plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit sought change, citing alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act.

After months of litigation, the Lone Star board capitulated, agreeing in a settlement to transform it's "at large" method of selecting trustees to a system of single member districts.

"You are going to have better representation of the diverse electorate that comprises the Lone Star district," said Jones.

For Walle, the bottom-line is better access to career training for those in his underemployed community.

"What better way to do that than having folks elected from their respective communities making those decisions," said Walle.

Back at North Harris where students, understandably, knew nothing of the legal fight, the move toward more ethnically balanced representation drew both approval and doubt.

"You need different points of view. You need people who can relate," said Sarah Helaire, a Lone Star student.

"We don't live in a world that's just one culture or one ethnicity, so we need to bring that into the schools as well," added Carmen Magnes, also a Lone Star student.

"Does it really matter if the board members are a Caucasian person or an African American person or hispanic person. I mean if they are good board members and their judgment is good on what to do with the school, it really shouldn't be that big a deal," said Jose Chavez who plans to attend Lone Star in the Spring.

Asked for comment, a Lone Star spokesman said, "The board vote occurred and the pending litigation was settled the next day."

 

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