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Education advocates call on AISD to address segregation

Thursday, September 6, 2018 by Katy McElroy

A group of education advocates, including Austin Independent School District Trustee Ted Gordon, is threatening to sue the district if it does not immediately address inequities facing students of color in the district. According to KUT, at a press conference Wednesday the group released a manifesto “demanding that the district make the student achievement of minority and low-income students it first priority, compensate and train teachers to work with these populations of students, and address segregation in the district by redrawing boundary lines.” KUT’s article quotes Ken Zarifis, president of the Education Austin teachers union, who said that redrawing the district’s boundaries would help solve the problem of segregation that the group sees in the district. “It might be frightening for some to look at change, but a boundary change impacts everybody in this community,” he said. “This progressive community that loves itself so much can actually do something progressive that will actually impact and benefit kids in this city.” The group would like the district to hire outside consultants to look at the feasibility of redrawing the district’s boundary lines, and it brought up the possibility of East Austin becoming its own district, if AISD doesn’t work with it on its demands.

Despite the influx of population to the area, East Austin schools are under-enrolled. Therefore, the group is also asking for the district to do away with its policy that allows families to enroll their children in a school other than their assigned one.

In addition, KUT reports, the group is also demanding:

  • teachers in Title 1 schools (those with high populations of low-income students) be paid at a higher rate than teachers not at those schools

  • AISD prioritize restorative justice practices and anti-racism programs to address racial disparities

  • AISD sell real estate only to provide affordable housing for staff and families

  • AISD address the influx of charter schools in East Austin

  • AISD be split into two districts if that would reduce the money paid back to the state in recapture.

The advocates say that if AISD is not responsive to their manifesto, it will work toward legal action and public demonstrations. Superintendent Paul Cruz has agreed to a meeting on Sept. 18.

This whisper has been corrected — if taken, legal action would be against the district, not the city.

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