Yesterday evening, AISD Trustees decided to hit the pause button on East Austin school closures. These are the very schools that we work with are impacted by high levels of gentrification in East Austin, massive charterization, and systemic underinvestment that has resulted in a grassroots movement to save East Austin schools that dates back to the bond election that is now resulting in the modernization of Sanchez Elementary.
Literally, thousands of children have been swept up into the charter schools that are near-EXCLUSIVELY (except for one) located in East Austin. Well, if this kind of reform is good for the east side, it should be equally good for Austin's wealthier west side and we all of course know this to not be true. Plus, it's a bad optic when certain board members abdicate their responsibilities to equitably serve the poorer side of town by paternalistically continuing to advocate for charter schools for Austin's east side.
The solution is not simply to increase enrollment into these schools, but also for them to become places where powerful learning is taking place so that we can "poach" the charter schools and get these children back.
Powerful learning is already taking place. Zavala has great partnerships with Communities in Schools and the University of Texas Neighborhood Longhorns Program and STEM programs in every grade as part of the AISD's creative learning initiative. Sanchez, Houston, and Perez have dual language programs. Metz has a pre-K dual language program. Most have after-school programming and socio-emotional learning (SEL). And all five of them can boast involvement in our Saturday academy.
Besides, who wants to be governed by a corporation when local governance is an option? You can run for office and be a trustee in the public sector and be a voice for your community. This is not possible in the corporate sector where your identity as a parent is reduced to that of a consumer and your child's schooling is reduced to a contract.
Consider reading (or re-reading): The Inconvenient Truth about Charter Schools in Texas: A Look at the Evidence. There are obviously some good charter schools, but the record as a whole leaves much to be desired. And many of our vulnerable families are aggressively targeted with glossy fliers, advertisements, and sales pitches that sway them in that direction.
Public education is inescapably political. Many individual and organizational efforts for many months have gone into saving East Austin schools. Yesterday evening's great showing of community members in support of all of our East Austin schools made a difference. The struggle continues.