In electing Gina Hinojosa to the Austin school board, local voters appointed a civil rights attorney who has pledged to challenge some of the educational overhauls championed by Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. With 128,000 votes counted, Hinojosa leads Sooch Foundation director Mary Ellen Pietruszynski 69 percent to 31 percent.
“Our community has reaffirmed its belief in supporting our public schools and engaging the community,” Hinojosa said in a phone interview. “We have the potential to make Austin a great destination for public schools like it is for so many other things.”
Hinojosa is no stranger to politics. Her dad, Gilberto Hinojosa, is chair of the Texas Democratic Party. And her roster of endorsements was peppered with prominent local pols such as Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Council Member Mike Martinez and State House Reps. Eddie Rodriquez, Mark Strama and Elliot Naishtat, just to name a few. Even the outgoing school board member whose seat she was seeking, Annette LoVoi, threw her support behind Hinojosa.
LoVoi was among two or three board members who routinely question Superintendent Carstarphen’s ambitious programs aimed at improving underperforming schools. She was among the three members who voted against Carstarphen’s most controversial plan of her tenure: hiring a South Texas charter school operator to run a college prep program in East Austin’s Allan Elementary. Hinojosa appears ready to follow in her footsteps.
“I think it’s dangerous to be imposing such drastic changes on communities when that was not a failing school,” Hinojosa told us before the election. “It was a beloved school in the community, and the community obviously didn’t want the change.”