Thursday, October 06, 2016

A potential "20-year first" relating to Austin ISD Board of Trustees Representation

 A potential "20-year first" relating to Austin ISD Board of Trustees Representation


Paul Saldaña, followed by commentary by Angela Valenzuela

My response to Board Member Paul Saldaña commentary on a potential 20-Year First
Austin Independent School District (AISD) Board Member

First, Paul Saldaña's observation:

AISD's student demographic profile consists of nearly 83,000 students. Minority students represent 75% of the total AISD population. The largest single Minority group are Latino students at nearly 60%, followed by African-Americans at 8%, then 7% other Minorities. In addition, nearly 28% or over 23,000 are Limited Englsh Proficient students. We currently have 100 languages spoken in our schools and serve refugees from 42 Countries. 

Since 2000, the least number of Minorities serving on the 9 Member AISD Board at the same time has been 3. After some quick research here is the snapshot:

2000-2002: 3 Minorities Trustees: Valdez(H/L), Montoya (H/L), Edelen (AA)
2002-2004: 3 Minorities Trustees: Valdez(H/L), Montoya(H/L) and Bradley (AA)
2004-2006: 3 Minorities Trustees: Valdez(H/L), Montoya(H/L) & Bradley (AA)
2006-2008: 4 Minorities Trustees Bradley(AA), Moya(H/L), Torres(H/L) & Montoya(H/L)
2008-2010: 5 Minorities Trustees: Guzman(H/L), Torres(H/L),Brister(H/L), Moya(H/L) & Bradley(AA)
2010-2012: 6 Minorities Trustees: Barksdale(AA), Moya(H/L), Bradley(AA), Torres(H/L), Brister(H/L) & Guzman(H/L)
2012-2014: 5 Minorities Trustees: Barksdale(AA), Bradley(AA), Moya(H/L), Torres(H/L) & Hinojosa(H/L)
2014-2016: 3 Minorities Trustees: Hinojosa(H/L), Gordon(AA) & Saldaña (H/L)

*Legend: H/L-Hispanic/Latino, AA-African-American 

Depending on the outcome of the upcoming November 2016 AISD Board Elections, in 2017, the AISD Board of Trustees could potentially only include 2 Minority Trustees, Dr. Ted Gordon (African-American) & Paul Saldaña (Latino)** out of 9 seats.

**African-American Andy Anderson running in AISD Dist 2 against Jayme Mathias (Anglo) and Latino candidate David Quintanilla running in open At-large Position 8 (seat to be vacated by Hinojosa) against Cindy Anderson (Anglo). #Equity

My response to Board Member Paul Saldaña commentary on a potential "20-Year First"

A school board that includes representatives of all diverse groups in our city at the table of political power is vital to our democracy.  It helps ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are represented.  In contrast, imbalances that in fact align to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic class background have enormous implications for which perspectives, whose experiences, and whose knowledge get represented, as well as how “the evidence” gets interpreted and represented.
The lack of AISD representation is already impactful. 
For example, the conversation should not at all be about WHETHER dual language/bilingual education “works,” but rather HOW best to implement a program that we already know is second to none if well-designed, well-staffed, and well-funded.  All of this should be a settled matter with us focused on the mechanics rather than any backward engineering of it on a seeming path to removal—albeit not for the Anglo parents in “their schools” in our district where it’s more than perfectly fine for them. 
This “conversation” that is currently taking place on our board today squarely supports my point on how diversity (or lack thereof) finds expression in ways that are massively important to policy—in this case, bilingual/dual language policy.  It further puts our bilingual/dual language teachers and administrators that are carrying out this pedagogy on the defensive when the opposite should hold true: They should be fully supported with all the resources and materials they need at their disposal. 
We should already have in place, for example, a bilingual/dual language lab where teachers can learn in a tangible way how best to offer instruction across diverse contexts on the basis of proven models.  When they lack curriculum, books, mentorship, and support, they are unnecessarily disheartened when their very status as bilingual/dual language teachers is called into question by board members that float into the atmosphere whether bilingual education even “works.”
With the literal decades of peer-reviewed research that has gone into this, including gold standard, governmental studies, bilingual/dual language education is more a matter of politics than about evidence.  The jury is in on dual language/bilingual education.  It has been in.  Ethnic studies, too.
With the more than 23,000 English language learner students cited by Paul Saldaña above—that doesn’t even include thousands more youth that are bilingual and biliterate—we should be getting on with the task of preparing ALL of our youth well for a multilingual and multiracial society.
A FURTHER lack of diversity on the AISD school board should deeply concern us—and perhaps particularly so for a city that likes to think of itself as liberal.  A diverse school board that represents our city not only prioritize youth as our most important investment for the future, but does so in a way that is research-based, intellectually honest, and culturally affirming.
I am not at all saying that having a racially/ethnically diverse school board automatically translates into the voices and interests of our cities’ communities being heard and met—even if this tends to be the case—but rather that a lack of diversity correlates to systemic biases, structured silences, and a not-surprising lack of concern about diversity in other areas such as in the teacher workforce itself.
I expound on this further in an earlier blog post that I encourage you to read titled, A teacher mispronouncing a student’s name can have a lasting impact—Why we need to grow our own teachers of color...
On the topic of bilingual/dual language education, it is incredibly disappointing to see board member conversations take us back to square one.  We don’t live in Anchorage, Alaska or in Augusta, Maine. It should mean something that Texas shares a border with Mexico that is 1,254 miles long—out of a total length of 1,900 miles to California.  But…that is indeed what you get with a lack of diversity on our school boards.
Keep up the great work, Paul!  Be our voice. Champion not only that which we know is well established in research, but that to which should already be our human and civil right as linguistic minorities—a right to our language and culture—and for a demographic, my friends, that inescapably holds our future and economic well-being as a country in its hands.
Angela Valenzuela

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