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Chief equity officer calls Austin ISD’s school closure process inequitable and ‘short-sighted’

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 by Claire McInerny, KUT

School closures and consolidations are not “equity strategies,” the Austin Independent School District’s chief equity officer says in a report released Monday.

“They are short-term and often short-sighted approaches to cost savings that are seldom reinvested in programming in the very school communities that are displaced and dispossessed,” Stephanie Hawley continues.

The report was dated Nov. 14 – five days before the vote to close four schools last month.

Hawley says the short timeline, lack of transparency in how schools were chosen and the lack of involvement with the community to develop a plan didn’t follow equity guidelines. She suggests the district do a systemwide equity audit, create a more aggressive strategy for increasing enrollment and adjust boundaries before closing schools.

At the meeting in November, school board member Arati Singh mentioned Hawley’s report and the fact that it had been pulled from the agenda. She asked Hawley to tell the board how she viewed the school closure process from an equity lens.

While district officials had good intentions, Hawley said, the plan represented “21st century racism.”

After the meeting, KUT put in a public records request for the report, but the request was denied. AISD said the report was still in draft form and couldn’t yet be released.

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This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo: Stephanie Hawley is the Austin Independent School District’s first equity officer. She started the job Aug. 1. Photo by Julia Reihs/KUT.

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