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Education

Here's Where The Runoff Candidates For Austin ISD's District 5 School Board Seat Stand On Two Big Issues.

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Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

Runoff elections are underway in Travis County, including the District 5 seat on the Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees. The district covers Central and West Austin schools.

This position is one of nine board members who decide the budget and policies for AISD.

Lynn Boswell is an AISD parent and former president of the Austin Council of PTAs, an organization that works with Parent-Teacher Associations throughout the city.

Jennifer Littlefield is an AISD parent and former volunteer for the district's bond committee. She is a lawyer.

Here's where the candidates stand on two major issues facing the AISD community:

How do you want to address the inequitable ways students in AISD are educated, the opportunities they have and the resources available to them?

Boswell: We start addressing issues of equity by talking really openly about issues of equity. I think an equity audit is essential. We can't address problems until we name the problems. Equity needs to look not just at academic performance, not just at test scores, but we need to be looking at discipline, issues of where certain classes are offered and where they are not. Who has access to AP Calculus? Who has art classes? People in my neighborhood would be shocked to learn for example that there are some schools that eliminate art in certain years. ... When we talk about equity it's that whole package. It's how people are treated, what is offered. It's teacher turnover.

Littlefield: I think every board member has an obligation to do what is in the best interests of the school district as a whole. The role of a single member trustee is really to have the specialty knowledge and expertise of how a policy is going to impact their schools ... to be able to say, "Oh, actually this transfer policy would inadvertently negatively impact these handful of schools, so we should make sure we're addressing that specific problem." But everyone should be focused on the overall equity issues of making sure that we are serving every student adequately and meeting the needs of every student across the district.

What would you like the board and district to start discussing when it comes to educating students during the pandemic and making sure we keep them on track whenever it ends?

Boswell: I would like to see a bigger community response involving big not-for-profits and small ones. Involving stronger collaborations between city, county and district. ... We need to really push back against [the Texas Education Agency], and we need to support our teachers by letting them know we are doing that. We may win that battle, we may lose that battle, but I think we need to fight that battle aggressively to have more local control over the decisions.

It's not one-size-fits-all. What works in one neighborhood might not work in another because of the burden of disease, because the risk is different from neighborhood to neighborhood. The rules that are coming down from TEA right now are not necessarily rules our community would necessarily embrace and choose.

Littlefield: What I would like to see is a more transparent communication with teachers and letting teachers know how decisions are being made and why decisions are being made. Right now, the most immediate issue is teacher accommodations and which teachers are required to be in person. I would like to see more of an effort to match up which students are virtual with teachers that are remaining virtual.

Can we do better than every teacher being in person teaching both virtual and in person? ... We know that kids are behind. We need to fundamentally restructure how we look at what is considered behind and on track. It's not fair to make a child feel like it's their fault that they are behind because of the pandemic.

Early voting has begun in Travis County. Election Day is Dec. 15.

Got a tip? Email Claire McInerny at claire@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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