LULAC says 5-2 BISD map good for Hispanics

Roberto Flores

The problem plaguing the Beaumont Independent School District isn’t just a black and white issue, says Roberto Flores, who claims that Hispanic members of the community are seldom considered and never represented when elected school officials make decisions that affect the education and future of all cultures and races residing in the city.

Flores, Beaumont area president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), says that although the Hispanic population in Beaumont has grown more than 70 percent in the last decade, the massive minority group is reduced to suffering taxation without representation. According to him, the only hope for Hispanic minorities to be represented on the local school board would be for the courts to order BISD to comply with voter-mandated election plan that would allow for at-large representatives.

“Any of the maps they drew wouldn’t benefit the Hispanic community,” Flores said about the more than a dozen maps drawn by a team of lawyers and demographers commissioned with taxpayer dollars entrusted to BISD over the last couple years. “The only thing that would give us any kind of a chance is the 5/2 deal.”

Flores said that, although the Hispanic community represents nearly 20 percent of the Beaumont population, the culture is spread about the city in a way that has not afforded a cohesive district that could be mapped without significant (and illegal) gerrymandering. Flores said that the current election plan of BISD utilizing seven single member districts (7/0) actively prevents Hispanics from having a representative on the board of trustees. With five single member districts and two at large representatives, the 5/2 plan Flores referred to, Hispanics would at least have the opportunity to have their vote for representation matter.

“In seven districts, it’s all divided among the black and white – nothing for the Hispanic,” Flores noted. “Someone would have to give up a seat for us to have one, and no one wants to do that.”

No man’s land

Flores said that the Hispanic community in Beaumont is largely forgotten “unless someone wants to pad their numbers — then they’ll add us in.”

“I honestly feel like the majority of (the BISD) board don’t want a Hispanic on it,” Flores said. “But we pay taxes, and we want representation. We have needs that no one on that board cares about, but we do.”

According to the Hispanic community leader, when race talks are had within the city, very few races are involved.

“There’s more than just one minority in Beaumont, you know?” Flores puzzled. “It’s kind of hypocritical of the (BISD) board to say they’re concerned with the education of minority children, when in reality they’re only concerned with the education of one minority’s children.”

Flores said that the support and legitimacy given by the local school board to litigation filed by Oveal Walker and others to demand that BISD use a 7/0 election plan in any upcoming school board election is just one more slap in the face to a group of Beaumonters who have done all they can to promote representation for all the city’s population groups.

“BISD is still hoping that they can do away with the 5/2 plan approved by voters,” Flores said. “And I’m afraid they’ll get what they want.

“There’s no one out there to stand up for us, for the Hispanic community. We have economic power; just ask anyone how much money the 70 percent increase in the Hispanic population has added to this city. … We don’t have voting power yet, though. But soon the children who have been victimized by this system of black and white will be old enough to vote, and they will remember who looked out for them and who didn’t.

“We’re just hoping someone will help us now… before any more of our children fall through the cracks because they’re not the right color or don’t speak the right language.”

Fed up

BISD parent Maria de la Paz-Blanco waited more than three hours through a January BISD Board of Trustees meeting to have her concerns heard by the elected group of representatives. According to her, prior efforts to speak with BISD administration proved futile, and her appearance at the late-night board meeting was a final attempt to reach out to school district leaders. Not a fluent English-speaker, she first delivered her remarks in her native Spanish tongue before Paz-Blanco’s words were translated by audience member Marcelino Rodriguez. Paz-Blanco began by saying that she was there to express her “frustration with the attitude that some of you have taken with the students …,” adding that she and her son had been victimized by the BISD system of indifference towards Hispanics, specifically being “discriminated, humiliated, and disregarded.”

“In my honest opinion,” Paz-Blanco further stated, “to many of you, the least of your worries is the education of the future citizens of this city.

“It frustrates me so much to see our youth, that are part of the school system that you represent, not graduate from our schools but instead end up in handcuffs in the penitentiary system.”

Paz-Blanco said she is not alone in her plight for equal education for students who are not native English speakers.

“Several mothers of Hispanic students have the same problems that I have had,” she said, “but they are afraid to speak up or are unable to …”

For parents like Paz-Blanco, she said, it is now their duty to ensure that their children receive the education they deserve even against the power of elected officials more concerned with their own political survival than the future of students they have sworn to serve.

“As of today,” she said, “my goal is making sure my children receive the best possible education that they can. However, I have decided I’m done searching for that in this district. I have decided to get my children out of here. All parents of all races in this city, all we are looking for is for all our children to receive the best education possible. I have fought, and I am still fighting, with everything that I have to make sure the children get the best that they can.”

On the short list

LULAC’s Flores said that, without immediate changes taking place in BISD, more parents like Paz-Blanco will move their students from the district – or, more than likely, the school district will continue to churn out students ill-prepared for the adult world.

“Hispanic student needs are just not being addressed,” Flores said. “These kids are going to be the Beaumont of the future. It’s to the benefit of the nation to educate these children.”

Among some of the Hispanic student problems noted by Flores are lack of higher education opportunities, saying that Hispanic students are not “getting the right schooling to allow for them to do well in college and universities”; a lack of bilingual educators at BISD; a system in place at BISD that does not integrate ESL students into regular classes before moving on to secondary education; and a lack of role models represented in the BISD curriculum, to name but a few, he added.

“We have no one looking out for these kids, and that’s all we want,” Flores said. “All we want is to be represented like everybody else.”