By Melissa B. Taboada - American-Statesman Staff
The Austin school board is taking steps to conduct a self-assessment on school equity in response to a threat by the Texas Civil Rights Project to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against the district.
Prior to conducting the assessment, the board will get ideas from a committee that is already examining how many of the district’s contracts are awarded to minority- or women-owned businesses. Then, the equity study will be conducted by a separate committee to be formed by the board in March.
The Texas Civil Right Project’s push for an assessment is an attempt to quantify a persistent issue in the Austin school district. Data has shown many schools on the city’s east side are under capacity, have high numbers of inexperienced teachers and educate mostly low-income, Hispanic and black students. Those schools have been the focus of a series of reforms over the years, with varying degrees of success. On the other hand, some of the district’s other schools and programs are highly competitive, full of experienced teachers and educate larger percentages of affluent students.
The Texas Civil Rights Project has asked the Austin school district to conduct a self-assessment on school equity to ensure access to resources for low-income students and schools with high numbers of low-income students. The group wants the district to examine the distribution of education resources including:
- High quality and signature programs.
- Access to outside private resources, which could include money raised by individual campus PTAs.
- Co-curricular and extracurricular activities.
- Access to highly effective teachers and administrators.
- Facilities, materials and technology.