Commentary: Austin ISD bond package isn’t perfect but deserves support

Every child has the right to a quality education that facilitates the achievement of her or his maximum potential. As District 1 trustee on the Austin ISD school board, this is my goal for the district.

Our awarded and overflowing schools in Austin’s well-heeled areas are proof that, for some of our students, we are approximating this standard. As a district, it is our responsibility to build on these successes and provide the facilities necessary to sustain and enhance excellence. To do this, we need a successful bond election to modernize our educational spaces to provide the quality educational opportunities that are our mandate.

The district has not yet achieved excellence in outcomes for all children. There are successes; some of the Title I schools in District 1 perform as well as any other at Austin ISD. However, many other schools have been mired in mediocrity or worse. Addressing this systemic inequity is the driving force behind my service on the board.

TWO VIEWS: Austin ISD bond plan would create segregation.

My concern about inequity led me to attempt to amend — and then vote against — the Facility Master Plan. I am not comfortable shifting district priorities and resources away from black and brown Title I schools toward more affluent areas — nor with how the plan increased socioeconomic segregation. For the remainder of my time on the board, I will fight to ensure that equity becomes a top priority of the master plan, rather than an afterthought.

The proposed $1 billion bond is, in some ways, a result of such struggle. By the time it came before trustees for approval, some of us were able to drive home the point that more resources needed to be placed into East Austin schools. After these resources were included in the bond package, I voted to support it.

Although the bond package does not address many of the historic and systemic inequities that concern myself and others, there is significant investment in East Austin, such as:

• Investments into high-tech and rigorous medical education programs for Reagan and LBJ.

• Two new elementary schools for students from underenrolled campuses. (The bond does not mandate that schools be consolidated, only that there will be resources to build modernized schools if they are.)

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Pro-AISD bond group raises $186,000 in campaign funds.

• A traditional co-ed middle school for Northeast Austin that has the potential to attract students from East and Northeast Austin attendance zones. (The bond does not determine the future of the District 1 single-gender schools).

• An investment to repurpose the historically significant original Anderson High School for Eastside Memorial and International High School students. (We will welcome Eastside Memorial into District 1 if the bond passes.)

These investments do not diminish the blow of the loss of a valuable educational asset in District 1 by the relocation of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy. I will continue to push for more diversity at the LASA and LBJ campuses.

I am sensitive to the fact that segments of East Austin feel their input was not sought on some of the decisions that emerged at the end of the process. There were conversations that happened too late — and some conversations did not happen at all. I hold the district leadership and school board accountable for poor communication. These decisions should not have been made without more consultation. However, voting “no” does not right that wrong. I invite those interested in issues of equity in our schools to join me in the struggle to make the master plan more equitable.

Although the bond is limited in what it will do to address generations of inequities, a defeat will only worsen conditions for students in East and Northeast Austin. I remind those who oppose the bond that they are for our children — who deserve the best educational experience we can provide for them. Despite its shortcomings, I support the bond proposition because I support our students. I encourage voters to do likewise. A vote for the bond is a vote for our children.

Gordon represents District 1 on the Austin ISD School Board.

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