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Austin School Board's At-Large Candidates Discuss Budget, Teacher Contracts in Forum

Nathan Bernier
Austin ISD is considering a deal with IDEA Public Schools that would create an in-district charter school, but one study questions how effective IDEA really is at educating disadvantaged kids.

Three of the five candidates for the at-large Austin School Board seat discussed teacher pay, magnet programs and the superintendent search at a forum last night, but many of the candidates’ answers focused on the budget.

The Austin School District expects to deal with budget shortfalls in the next few years. The district continues to send millions of dollars to the state as part of the Texas’ school finance system. If the board had to make adjustments to the budget, candidate Kazique Prince says the district needs to focus on high needs students and teachers and “making sure our teachers are paid a decent wage because we don’t want our talent leaving."

The local teachers union, Education Austin, is endorsing Prince. Candidate Andy Triminio agreed. He says the district should even offer five-year contracts to teachers. Right now, the district offers three-year contracts.

The third candidate, Kendall Pace, says to save money, the district should review its programs to see if they’re working.

“We start initiatives that have initial grant funding and then they become an unfunded mandate," Pace says. "Or even, for example in dual language, I’m supported in the roll out, but maybe we’re rolling out that initiative too fast."

Dual Language programs teach elementary students in two languages. Both Pace and Prince say the new board and the new superintendent — which the next board will hire — need to work to restore trust in AISD. He says the district needs to communicate better with families:

“Announcing to the community ahead of time, ‘Hey I’m coming out,  I want to meet you, I want to hear what’s going on in your community.'" Prince says. "Because when you look at different parts of community sometimes they’re dealing with different challenges. But often times when those events come, people don’t know about them ahead of time."

Candidate Andy Trimino says he expects a run-off in the race.

If that happens, he wants the school board to wait until candidates are elected so they can participate more in the superintendent search process. That search opens to applications next month.

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