Austin has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. for six years now, with an unemployment rate of less than four percent, one of the two lowest in the state of Texas. According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, advanced manufacturing, creative and digital media technology, data management, space technology, healthcare and life sciences are among the key industries fueling our city’s economic growth.
Our continued success as an economic region depends upon our ability to attract and retain these industries and more. When companies consider making Austin home, they want to know that we have quality schools for their employees’ children to attend and an educated workforce to employ. They want to join a community that recognizes that quality education is a foundation for a thriving community. Building and improving schools is an investment that strengthens our whole community.
Proposition 1 on the November 7 ballot is our opportunity to make an investment that upgrades and modernizes every school in the Austin Independent School District. New curriculums have been implemented to help kids build the foundations they will need to be successful and contribute to our community. However, new curriculums are being taught in 50-, 80-, or 100-year-old structures designed for an entirely different type of education. Aligning 21st-century education curriculum with modernized buildings and pairing it with updated technology is critical to creating effective learning environments that will prepare our kids for future opportunities.
One hundred percent of the investment we make through this bond will benefit our community. Approximately half of all property tax paid for education in Austin ISD goes to the state of Texas to redistribute to struggling districts across the state. But all bond funds stay local.
Readers may not be aware of the state of disrepair of some of our Austin ISD campuses. The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (ARS) is one of those schools. ARS is a nationally ranked college-bound AISD public school that creates opportunities for middle- and high school-age girls from across the city to pursue college and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Our student population is ethnically, geographically and economically diverse, reflecting the diversity of AISD. Seventy-five percent of our students come from Title I schools. Every single Ann Richards School graduate has been accepted to a four-year college, and 65 percent of those students are the first in their family to attend college.
The ARS students succeed despite the leaky roof, rodent droppings in the hallways, cramped library, unusable locker rooms with no hot water, inadequate athletic facilities, and broken sewer pipes. The 1950’s structure that houses ARS is a poor foundation from which to launch our future leaders.
Ann Richards is one of the schools slated for immediate modernization if Proposition 1 passes. I am supporting the bond for what it will bring to Ann Richards and every school across the District. A vote for Proposition 1 is a vote for the future of Austin – one in which all of our students succeed.
Richards is the daughter of the late Gov. Ann Richards and is chair emeritus of the Ann Richards School Foundation.