Analysis: Houston Area Weekend Elections

Houston Public Media’s analysis of the results of two important Houston area May 6th elections.

School Finance Results

In a major reversal, voters in the Houston Independent School District changed their minds on how to pay a multimillion dollar bill to the state’s school finance system.

Last November, more than 60 percent of HISD voters rejected the traditional method of essentially writing a check to the state.

Since then, the amount due has dropped from $162 million to about $77 million and school board trustees put it back on the ballot in a special election.

This time around, on Saturday, more than 80 percent of voters approved Proposition 1, authorizing HISD to purchase “attendance credits” to pay the recapture bill.

In a statement, HISD Board President Wanda Adams said that the board will continue to work with lawmakers to “fix the broken school finance system.”

“We look forward to seeing meaningful changes that ensure all Texas children are provided the resources they desperately need to succeed. We at HISD believe education is an investment, not an expense, and we hope the Legislature views it the same way,” Adams said.

The ‘yes’ vote avoids the complicated and unprecedented situation of HISD losing $8 billion of commercial property from its tax base. That process, called detachment, is another way to pay into the state’s so-called Robin Hood system.

The previous November vote triggered that scenario, which was scheduled to happen in July.

Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, called the vote a major win. The partnership campaigned heavily for a ‘yes’ vote, which both the business group and also HISD’s budget office determined the cheaper of the two options for HISD taxpayers.

“We are pleased that voters made the smart choice for all of our community,” Harvey said in a statement. “Keeping HISD’s tax base intact ensures that Houston businesses can continue to help fund Houston’s public schools and its future leaders. Now we turn our attention to advocating for wholesale changes to our state’s outdated school finance system.”

Because HISD is considered property wealthy, it has to share revenue with property poor school districts, under Texas’ Robin Hood system.

Pasadena City Elections

Some closely watched races in Pasadena’s city elections will go to a second round.

Voting in Pasadena took place under Justice Department supervision, after a federal judge ruled in January that the city had intentionally discriminated against Latino voters. 

Councilmember Jeff Wagner racked up the most votes in the mayor’s race. The former Houston police officer polled about 39 percent in the crowded field. Wagner currently represents council district F on Pasadena’s majority-Anglo south side and has been considered an ally of outgoing mayor Johnny Isbell. He’ll face second-place candidate John “J.R.” Moon in a runoff election. Moon, who polled about 18 percent of the vote, is a San Jacinto College trustee and former CFO of Moody National Bank.

While the Pasadena contests were officially non-partisan, the Texas Democratic Party did endorse several candidates for city council. Felipe Villareal ran a close second behind Daniel Vela in a three-man race for District A, on the city’s majority-Latino north side. That contest will also go to a run off. In an even closer race, Steve Halvorson lost outright to incumbent Councilmember Bruce Leamon in District B.

For full election results, go here.



Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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