EL PASO, Texas - There was a fiery debate at Wednesday's Canutillo ISD board meeting.
At issue: A resolution claiming the district cannot afford to take in more low-income students and the social problems they bring with them.
Texas state officials reportedly asked district officials for their input on a proposed 48-unit low-income housing project to be built in the Village of Vinton.
After reading the resolution, the mayor of Vinton, Manny Leos, said the district seemed to care more about money than students.
Vinton has a population of 1,892 residents.
"Thirty-four percent of our residents live below the poverty level. Thirty percent of our residents are under the age of 19. So yes, we have a real strong need for family housing, multifamily housing," Leos said.
Leos takes offense to certain members of the Canutillo ISD board of trustees opposing the construction of a low income housing project in Vinton.
Board president Laure Searls presented the proposed resolution to the trustees.
The resolution, posted online on the district's website, states, "CISD is a property poor school district and has one of the lowest assessed valuations of taxable property per student of all school districts in the State of Texas; and Whereas, the State of Texas has dramatically reduced the amount of funds available to property poor school districts during past legislative sessions."
The proposed resolution argued the development and others like it would bring more low-income students, additional financial demands and added social problems without the funding necessary to address those issues.
Trustee Stephanie Frietze criticized the resolution and argued the district should welcome any new development. That statement led to a fiery exchange with Searls.
"No matter if it's low income, high income. No, you don't understand. Yes, I do. No, you don't. I do. I promise you don't, or you would not be saying what you were."
"These units that they are proposing are not going to bring those property taxes to our district that we desperately need," Searls said.
Georgina Perez, the District 1 representative for the Texas State Board of Education addressed the board during public comment.
"Let us not forget that this body exists for the purpose of public education. It is not a private school, it is not a parochial institution or corporate charter school that selectively chooses the children," Perez said. "The problem is that Canutillo ISD, like districts across the state, is dealing with the problem of ensuring there is adequate funding to go around. But the solution is not to unfairly try to turn away students because they are poor. The fact that you are even considering this resolution, along with statements like "serious financial and social effects" of the poor is an an insult to this community. Moreover, it's an insult to the history of this community."
Vinton Administrator Jessica Garza mailed a letter to CISD Superintendent Pedro Galaviz asking for the district's support. Garza said the proposed housing complex would provide better living conditions to the district's students.
"Many of these students live in homes that are below state standards or share a single family-sized home with multiple families," Garza stated in the letter.
Board secretary Rachael Quintana and trustee Armando Rodriguez also opposed the wording of the proposed resolution.
The board decided to rework the resolution taking into consideration some of the trustees concerns and vote on it at a later meeting.
If approved, the resolution would then be sent back to the state as a response for the board's input.