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Education

In-District Charter School Opponents Organize Boycott

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Photo by Nathan Bernier/KUT News
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People protesting the IDEA Charter School program outside a school board meeting in December.

Opponents of an Austin ISD’s in-district charter school are trying to wage a boycott campaign against the program. Members of an Eastside Memorial High School community group have organized as Pride of the Eastside and are trying to prevent South Texas-based IDEA Public Schools from operating college prep programs in two eastside schools.

The AISD board voted 6-3 in December to contract with IDEA Public Schools amid loud protests from community members who argued that the district rushed the process and ignored public input. They pointed to education researcher Ed Fuller’s review of Texas Education Agency data that cast doubt on some of IDEA Public School’s educational claims.

School board members who supported the proposal argued the current district plan was not helping to improve graduation rates and test results at Eastside Memorial High School, a campus that has earned a failing grade in 10 of the last 11 state assessments.

“As trustees, we are not satisfied with the status quo, which has prevented too many East Austin children from achieving their educational dreams,” school board members Mark Williams and Sam Guzman wrote in an editorial in the Austin American-Statesman.

The three board members who opposed the plan explained their dissent in a Statesman editorial on Sunday.

Now some of the same parents, teachers and community members who stood outside chanting against the IDEA contract for hours during two December school board meetings are trying to convince parents not to enroll their children in the program.

Section I of the contract between IDEA and AISD stipulates that in the program’s first year, which starts in Fall 2012, IDEA must serve a minimum of 336 students in kindergarten, first and second grade. It also says IDEA must serve at least 112 students in sixth grade. Pride of the Eastside believes, if it can prevent IDEA from reaching those goals, it can stop the program.

Pride of the Eastside has set up a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and is almost done writing its mission statement, according to an email sent late Sunday. Members will also march in a Martin Luther King Day parade on Monday and participate in an Occupy UT education forum afterwards in Kealing Park.

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