As redistricting picks up speed at the state, county and city levels, Fort Worth ISD is about to redraw its school board districts.
The school board has nine single-member districts. Together, the trustees are in charge of approving the redrawn political boundaries and ensuring all nine have proportional populations. How those lines are drawn — a process that occurs every 10 years — will affect the trustees making decisions for Fort Worth ISD.
Here’s what you need to know about the Fort Worth ISD school board’s redistricting process:
How does redistricting work for the school board?
The starting point for the district’s new trustee maps is the same as other governments: the 2020 census.
The number of people living in Fort Worth ISD grew by about 10% since 2010. The 2020 census pegged the district’s population at 513,333. A decade ago, that number was 466,910.
New trustee districts have to comply with two major federal laws — the Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These dictate the redistricting process.
Trustees, though, can go beyond the pair of laws when considering their new maps. They can consider how new lines will affect communities of interest, such as particular neighborhoods or people who share similar public policy concerns; whether districts are compact and contiguous; the incumbency of an elected trustee within a district; and how a new district aligns with voting precincts.
For example, district officials will have to consider its growing western and southwestern areas, as well as parts of Fort Worth ISD that saw population decreases.
The first step toward drawing new maps for trustee districts is to analyze the new population data and whether existing boundaries are in compliance with federal law. Each district should have about 57,000 people.
After the analysis is completed, the districts will be redrawn to equalize the population. Trustees, the redistricting committee and the public will guide this process and propose a new map for the school board.
The nine trustees appoint Fort Worth ISD residents to the redistricting committee. Board President Tobi Jackson said trustees will depend on the committee to propose maps to reflect the interests and concerns from the community.
Once the committee has a final plan, it will go to the school board for adoptions. It then will be sent to the county, state and federal governments ahead of the next election cycle in 2023.
When should redistricting be completed?
The timing of all of this depends on several external factors outside of the school board’s control, Jackson said.
“Given the delays caused by the pandemic, the 2020 US census data was just released (and) the state of Texas has not yet redistricted the state House, Senate and (U.S.) Congressional Districts, that process will dictate the next election schedule,” Jackson told the Fort Worth Report.
“We are looking forward to engaging with the community in a transparent process that will serve the needs of our stakeholders until the next census,” Jackson said. “This is an exciting time for Fort Worth ISD and for our city due to the immense growth via the influx of population. It is a wonderful opportunity to further engage our community and that in itself is a way to better serve students.”
How is this different from the last redistricting?
Unlike the 2011 redistricting process, Fort Worth ISD is not making sweeping changes to the school board’s structure.
Before 2011, Fort Worth ISD was the only school district in the state where the board president was elected at large, according to Fort Worth Library archives. The other eight trustees were elected from single-member districts.
The switch to nine single-member districts can be traced back to the 1990s when local advocates pushed for districts so minorities had a better chance of being elected. The Legislature even tried to force Fort Worth ISD to change to nine single-member districts, but failed.
Trustees approved the switch in 2008.
This year’s redistricting effort will be more sophisticated and driven more by software, according to district officials. Previously, new maps were mostly completed by hand.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.