Eldorado High School, Del Norte High School, McKinley Middle School, Bel Air Elementary School and Comanche Elementary will be in a new school board district and represented by a different school board member as of next school year.
The Albuquerque Public School Board approved Concept Map E2 on Wednesday, which shifts a total of eight schools in Albuquerque to new districts. The move does not affect school zone boundaries, but it does change the population size, demographics and representation of those districts under the new map.
Under the new map, which will take effect with the 2023 school board elections, several northeast school will be under new representation. Eldorado High School moves from District 6 to 7; Del Norte High School from 7 to 3; McKinley Middle School from 3 to 4; Bel Air Elementary School from 3 to 4; and Comanche Elementary School from 7 to 6.
Changes in the northwest quadrant
One of the biggest changes to the school board district is on the west side, where all of Corrales moved from District 3 to District 2, and in the southeast where a large swath of District 1 shifted into District 4. Other schools affected by the changes include Corrales Elementary School, which moves from district 2 to 3; Rudolfo Anaya Elementary, which moves from district 5 to 1; and Zuni Elementary Magnet School for Communication & Technology, which moves from district 3 to 4.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years when new U.S. Census data is released that show changes in population and demographics within school board districts. The purpose of redistricting is to ensure there is fair representation for each school board district. School boards are supposed to be non-partisan, but school board member Barbara Peterson, who represents District 4, said the redistricting process was biased and the new map does not provide fair representation of each district.
Discussion on fair representation
“We still haven’t seen a map that actually in fact represents the community in the way it should. The E maps do two, what I think are very destructive things. One is that it packs both minority and low-income voters into three districts. It packs them into District 4, District 1 and District 5 in a way that is overwhelmingly different than the other maps,” Peterson said during Wednesday’s meeting.
“The other things that that map does, and although, I mean I think one of the things that I’ve been proud of for the APS board over all of these years is that we really have tried to be nonpartisan. We are supposed to be nonpartisan. We are by statute nonpartisan, and it’s clear that the committee was partisan. It’s clear that certain members of the committee, who took over [the] dominant voice on that committee, had worked in the Susanna Martinez administration, had very political backgrounds and worked very hard to craft these maps.”
In addition to concerns over greater economic disparities between school board districts, Peterson also pointed out some of the racial inequities under the new map. Peterson wanted three of the districts to have a Hispanic majority. District 7, which now includes the mostly white, affluent and academically well-performing Eldorado High School, is a majority white enclave in Albuquerque’s far northeast and Northeast Heights.
District 7 board member Courtney Jackson asked if it is possible to create three majority Hispanic districts, which Research & Polling president Michael Sharp said is possible. She then asked if it is possible to create a map where all seven districts have a racial majority, which Sharp said is not possible.
Racial data by district and controversy
Jackson pointed out District 1 is 72% Hispanic, District 2 46.7% Hispanic, District 3 47.2% Hispanic, District 4 43.5% Hispanic, District 5 71.2% Hispanic, District 6 33.2% Hispanic and District 7 26% Hispanic. The total adult voting population in the APS district is 45% Hispanic.
The racial divide between white and Hispanic residents, as well as the economic disparities, have played out on school campuses and sporting events. In the early 1990s there was an uproar after La Cueva students threw tortillas at Valley High students during a sporting event, and more recently Cleveland High School fans could be heard taunting La Cueva players, chanting “Daddy’s Money” during the 2022 state football championship game at Wilson Stadium.
Over the years the city has attempted to attract mixed housing developments and more racial and economic diversity throughout the school districts, but the foothills and far northeast areas have become unaffordable for many locals and tend to attract rich, out-of-state homebuyers who are also mostly white. The school board cannot influence what part of the city residents choose to move to and the redistricting maps are only a reflection of U.S. Census data.
“And just to speak one more time, and I’m sorry if this is redundant, but I feel it’s very important,” Jackson said. “You do not believe that the E maps violate the Voting Rights Act, correct?”
Sharp confirmed the E maps do not violate the law before Jackson moved to approve Map E2. Further discussion took place, including additional comments by District 6 board member Josefina Domínguez, who also suggested the redistricting process was rigged by “GOP operatives” before a final vote was made to approve the map.
The majority of adult voters in District 6 are also white. District 6 stretches across the foothills area of Albuquerque and up into the East Mountains. The district includes Manzano and Sandia high schools.
School board district map E2 passed on a 5-2 vote with Peterson and Domínguez voting no. The Wednesday, Dec. 7 school board meeting can be watched in full on the APS Board of Education Youtube channel.