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The Two Faces of Judith Cruz: Houston ISD District 8 Candidate

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"Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls, It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook-up world." by The Kinks, Lola

Judith Cruz began her candidacy for the district 8 position on the Houston Independent School District Board of Trustees as a Democrat, but now is quietly campaigning as a Republican in some communities.

Her change of heart, though half-hearted, came after a Republican candidate won two thousand votes in the primary. She wants those votes for the runoff, next Tuesday, November 30 in her race against Juliet Stipeche.

The conversion must have got passed Cruz’s Democratic campaign manager, Marc Campos, who refers to Governor Perry derisively only as “Governor Dude,” as well as city-councilman James Rodriguez, who gave Cruz a last minute endorsement.

The rationale for Ms. Cruz’s candidacy was her desire for school reform. Yet when asked about the pace of reform in the Houston Independent School District, she insisted administrators “need to go slower.” Terry Grier’s one reform program serves only nine schools. You cannot go much slower than that.

Ms. Cruz has said she is running to put needs of children ahead of adult interests, but upon hearing some elementary school teachers dislike serving free breakfasts in the classroom, she claimed “HISD students may be hungry, but they are definitely not starving” and declared against the program.

Trying to link Superintendent Terry Grier, not so popular on the east-side, to her opponent, Ms. Cruz issued a letter stating “Only two people are for breakfasts in the classroom: Terry Grier and my opponent.”

Yet she has repeatedly claimed Terry Grier “has the right mindset” and “is headed in the right direction.”

HISD teachers might not have to worry about serving breakfasts for long, because Ms. Cruz wants to end subsidies keeping small schools afloat. At a candidates’ forum she said as many as one-third of HISD’s neighborhood schools are under-capacity and should be considered for closure. Most of the schools she is talking about are elementary schools. She has identified Michelle Rhee, who closed forty neighborhood schools in the District of Columbia, as a role model.

Opposed to HISD’s small schools, Ms. Cruz has nonetheless praised the KIPP and YES Prep charter schools; and all of these schools are small schools that receive higher per pupil subsidies than HISD schools.

Democrat and Republican; celebrating the successes of small schools and advocating their closure; for putting the interests of children first and then not so much; a reformer opposed to reform; and a supporter and critic of Terry Grier—Judith Cruz is at best unclear about what she stands for and at worst she, or her campaign manager, is misrepresenting her to voters.

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