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Central Texas Voters Embrace Public School Funding

Qiling Wang for KUT
The AISD bond includes more than $2.2 million in projects for Ridgetop Elementary.

Voters approved five of five school funding questions in Central Texas on Tuesday.

The Austin Independent School District, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD and Lago Vista ISD all posed bond questions, which use tax money for various renovations and technology upgrades. Eanes ISD asked for a change in the tax rate, which can be used for general district expenses. 

The AISD bond passed with 72 percent of the vote. Lake Travis ISD's bonds also won support from more than 70 percent of voters. In Lago Vista ISD, the bond had 65 percent support from voters. The Leander ISD bond won with nearly 66 percent of the vote. In Eanes, 89 percent voters approved a tax rate election.

Austin ISD

Austin ISD posed a $1.05 billion bond question to do improvements to all the district's schools. For some schools, this will mean repairs or upgrades. Part of the bond question includeda shakeup of high schools in East Austin, including moving East Side Memorial High School and the Liberal Arts and Science Academy to new, renovated buildings. 

“When something’s new everybody just gets all excited," said Mary Howell, who has a child at East Side Memorial. She said she hopes the new school is an attractive part of the district. "It seems like you belong and you are part of that new change.”

Opponents of the bond question cited issues with equity in AISD schools. They disagreed with how money in the bond was allocated to different parts of the city. 

Paul Saldaña, former AISD board member, said this conversation should continue. One issue the bond tried to address was overcrowding and under enrollment at different schools. Saldaña said one way to address this issue going forward is a discussion around redrawing boundaries. 

"The district and the board never had a formal conversation, nor did we do any work, when I was on the board, at redrawing boundaries and attendance zones," he said. 

Leander ISD

Leander’s $454 million bond proposal came from a need to serve growing enrollment in the district. LISD is expected to grow by 1,200 students each year. The bond will build four new schools over the next four years. The tax rate for Leander residents will remain the same.

Lago Vista ISD

Lago Vista posed a $2.9 million bond to improve technology and transportation in the district, as well as upgrade heating and cooling systems. This bond doesn’t raise the tax rate already in place.

Lake Travis ISD

The $253 million bond will pay for construction projects around the district, in an effort to accommodate growth. Enrollment in the district grew by 76 percent over the last 10 years. The money would upgrade buses in the district and build two new schools.

Eanes ISD

Eanes ISD posed not a bond, but a tax ratification election. The question before voters was whether to raise the tax rate that pays for operations and lower the one that pays an overall lower tax rate. It results in a lower overall tax rate for voters in Westlake.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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