IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) - On the day the nation honored Dr. Martin Luther King, a serious debate over race in the Irving Independent School District had the school board looking for middle ground.
"I determined in my own mind that 5-2 was a good compromise," said trustee Jerry Christian.
Christian was one of six trustees who voted last week to establish five single-member districts in Irving, while setting aside two spots for at-large candidates.
The vote sparked outrage, threats of a law suit and classroom protests by Anthony Bond of the Irving Educational Coalition. "If 90 percent of the school kids were white and we had an all-black school board, the white people would be doing the same thing," said Bond.
Single-member districts mean that candidates need only compete for votes in the district they're running in. Roughly 85 percent of students in Irving are minorities. By dividing up districts, the goal is to encourage minority candidates to run in minority-dominated districts.
Bond and a handful of other minority activists want Irving sliced up into seven single-member districts, not five. By doing so, Bond says it almost guarantees that six of the seven districts would favor minority candidates.
"These white people have been in control for over 103 years," said Bond. "Four minority members in 103 years? That's unacceptable."
Trustee Christian says a 5-2 system allows all voters in Irving to have a say in at least two seats.
"If you go to a seven single-member district plan, the voters only get to vote once every three years in school board elections," said Christian. "If you set up a 5-2 plan, almost all the voters get to vote two out of three years," he added.
Trustees, Valerie Jones and Ronda Huftstetler also favored seven districts, but voted for a 5-2 system, rather than have no districts at all.
"I understand the Hispanic and African-American members of our community who look at this current board and ask who is representing my view point," Jones said at last Thursday's board meeting.
The debate is likely rage on for several months. The proposed five-district map must first be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. That is likely to take at least 60 days, so any changes to the election process will not take effect until May 2013.
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