A civil court judge dealt a blow to taxpayers suing the Houston Independent School District seeking intervention to stop the costly and politically correct re-branding of eight schools named for historical figures associated with the Confederacy.
On Monday, Judge John Wooldridge denied a request made by the plaintiffs to halt the renaming of eight Houston ISD campuses with a temporary injunction. According to the Houston Chronicle, the judge’s order does not nix the lawsuit, although it signals a victory to the school district to move forward with their renaming plans. In response, Wayne Dolcefino, spokesman for plaintiffs, called it a “victory for arrogance.” He told Breitbart Texas the money could have been better spent in the classroom. He said the losers are teachers who “have to beg for school supplies in a broke school district.”
In June, a group of outraged Houston taxpayers sued the school district, seeking to block Houston ISD from using the peoples’ money to rename eight schools. Breitbart Texas reported the district’s board of trustees jumped on the national bandwagon to strip all Confederate-tied names from public structures following the tragic shootings of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina Bible study in 2015.
Of the 10 Texas schools that subsequently changed their names, the largest number, eight, were in Houston ISD, according to the Texas Tribune which noted at least 24 of the state’s schools with Civil War South-linked monikers did not foresake their namesakes.
Breitbart Texas reported the lawsuit argued several points, including the school board’s vote to rename the eight schools was illegal and that trustees did not give ample notice of renaming costs or get clearance from historical preservation agencies.
On August 11, after months of confusion and discord over the speculated costs of the proposed re-brands, Houston ISD trustees revealed a $1.25 million budget. Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt asked them to approve this budget to address financial concerns in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs also sought to protect these schools as monuments under state law. Dolcefino told Breitbart Texas, “Taxpayers asked Judge Bill Burke to stop the renaming and destruction of historical buildings until the Texas Education Agency could investigate.”
Those suing wanted more accountability and transparency from the board, critical in a cash-strapped school district with a gaping hole in its massive $1.9 billion 2012 school bond program that earmarked funds to renovate 40 aging district schools.
The judge’s decision Monday followed a KPMG audit that probed what went wrong with the $1.9 billion school bond, the largest in Texas history. Breitbart Texas reported auditors suggested inflation and rising construction costs played key roles behind a whopping $211 million budgetary gap related to renovating these 40 structures. However, the report underscored the district’s weak or nonexistent policies and procedures in place for budget development and inadequate oversight, among other serious accountability concerns.
To remedy the situation, Houston ISD board trustees voted to borrow $212 million taxpayer dollars but they still wound up with a $107 million shortfall in their 2016-2017 school year budget because of the district’s obligation to send funds back to the state. Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code requires Houston ISD, considered a “property wealthy” district, to participate in the so-called Robin Hood program, which redistributes taxpayer dollars to property-poor districts.
A Houston ISD spokesman responded to the judge’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s request for a temporary injunction by telling Breitbart Texas, “Everyone involved in this case is a taxpayer. The board members who voted on the new names are taxpayers elected by taxpayers. Schools opened this week with their new names and the district is moving forward.”
Added Dolcefino, “This week, visiting Judge John Wooldridge signed the order denying the injunction for his buddy Judge Burke, even though Judge Wooldridge didn’t even hear the case. And they call that justice.”
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