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More Than Masks And CRT: Local Control Is Driving Texas School Board Race

Jacob Scott

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Like many contests that preceded it around the country, an upcoming school board race in Houston, Texas, will test how voters feel about “critical race theory” and mask mandates, along with another polarizing issue — local versus state control of schools.

A runoff election Saturday will determine control of the Houston Independent School District, the nation’s seventh-largest public school agency, which has fought a state takeover that would impact 200,000 students across more than 280 schools.

Incumbents on Houston’s all-Democrat board of trustees are beating back a challenge from a GOP slate that came within striking distance of winning seats in November — although none of its candidates received more than 50% of the vote, thus triggering the second election for four contested seats.

The race isn’t unlike other nationalized school board elections, except that in Houston, the Texas Education Association’s takeover is a major flashpoint.

Both parties acknowledge the takeover is unpopular in the district. But Democrats believe that despite the pro-parental rights posture on the right, Republicans would be just fine with a state takeover if incumbent Democrats prevail in the trustee races.

“It’s hugely ironic,” said Ruth Kravetz, an activist and former educator in Houston. “Republicans have traditionally said local control is the most important thing. Now they’re saying local control is not the most important thing when it comes to running our public schools.”

In 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott — a Republican who was sued, and lost, over his executive order banning masks in Texas schools — advocated replacing the trustees overseeing the state’s largest district, which has faced an ethics breach and years of poor performance at one troubled high school.

“What a joke. HISD leadership is a disaster. Their self-centered ineptitude has failed the children they are supposed to educate. If ever there was a school board that needs to be taken over and reformed it’s HISD. Their students & parents deserve change,” Abbott tweeted then.

While a temporary injunction stopped TEA’s takeover as a challenge makes it way through Texas Supreme Court, there are questions about whether Abbott might try to walk back the state’s takeover attempt should the GOP win seats on the board. His office didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Republican trustee candidate Janette Garza Lindner speculated to The News-Leader that electing new members might prompt the state to “back off” of its conservatorship.

The GOP slate contends that while it would prefer local control, what they’re most hoping for is a clean slate after several turbulent years.

In 2018, five Houston trustees met in private in an unsuccessful attempt to install a new superintendent, which TEA later ruled was in violation of open meeting laws. Two of the trustees involved were up for reelection and replaced the next year, but three others are on the ballot.

“I’m not in favor of school takeover,” said Republican Caroline Walter, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mother who’s competing in the runoff. “However, do we want a board of trustees who have broken the law and feel that they are above the law? Because that’s not good for our district, either.”

“I am a believer in having a local school board run by local community members,” she continued. “But I also don’t think they should be able to get away with what they’re getting away with. So it’s kind of a no-win situation right now.”

HuffPost attempted to contact all eight candidates in the runoff and heard back from four open to interviews — three Republicans and one Democrat.

“It depends,” Garza Lindner, a management consultant, told HuffPost in an email when asked about whether she supports school takeover. Garza Lindner said Democrats are unfairly trying to paint the GOP slate as pro-takeover.

“My opponent has made this a key issue by claiming I want the state to takeover. Why would I, a newcomer to politics, go through a grueling monthslong campaign for public office, just to welcome the loss of local control?” she said.

The ethics episode and failing metrics at several schools — including Phillis Wheatley High School, which serves the city’s historically Black Fifth Ward — are what spurred the state’s intervention, even though the district as a whole is meeting state benchmarks. Texas legislators in 2015 passed a law allowing the state to intervene in local districts if even just one school is failing, which some Democrats viewed as a way for Republicans to exert control over Democratic cities.

“They wrote the rules to make sure Houston ISD schools would fail,” said Anne Sung, a 42-year-old Democratic incumbent who finished behind her newcomer opponent in the November election. “And that’s the basis for the takeover.”

Education advocates fear what would happen if the state is allowed to implement its conservatorship, which involves TEA appointing a board of managers. They argue the more than 100 instances of state takeover across the country have been motivated by racism and political power more than a desire to improve public education. Kravetz, the activist, fears charter schools overrunning the district.

“I think this is using children as pawns, making money on the backs of kids,” said Kravetz, who’s volunteering with Sung’s campaign. “If the state takes over, they will almost immediately turn over public schools to charters. And the problem with that is if you don’t know how to work the system, your kids lose.”

Besides the looming takeover, the Houston board of trustees race features the same rhetoric that has characterized many other formerly sleepy board of education races. Republican Kendall Baker, a former city employee, said his opponent is a “far left-wing liberal” who is for Marxism and critical race theory — which has become a catchall for any teachings about racism and history that Republicans find offensive.

“People here want a change,” said Baker, 56. “Because of CRT and the mask mandate issue, that has opened up the window and shed light on the whole state of HISD.”

Asked whether the district could use an injection of bipartisan leadership, Udus Evabagharu, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, said state funding and legislation impacting schools has been under GOP control for two decades and said the outcome hasn’t demonstrated that Republicans can lead on education.

“If you’re looking at the state of Texas, that’s the Republicans’ fault,” he said. “The Republicans have controlled the governor’s mansion, the lieutenant governor’s seat and the state legislature. They’re the ones who have been in charge of education. You can’t say that schools are failing when you refuse to adequately fund them.”

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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