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Education

There's A Runoff Election For The At-Large Seat In Austin ISD. Here’s Where The Candidates Stand On Two Big Issues.

AISD_board.jpg
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

Runoff elections are underway in Travis County, and one race most people in Austin will be able to vote on is the at-large position on the Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees.

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

Leticia Caballero is an AISD parent and volunteer. She was a chair for the district's Facility and Bond Advisory Committee, which assessed all the district's facilities before writing the 2017 bond that put $1 billion into AISD school buildings. Caballero's job is in public policy, and she works with the Texas Legislature.

Noelita Lugo is an AISD parent and volunteer. She co-founded Save Austin Schools, a group the emerged during the school closings in 2019. She has a master's degree in social work and works in public policy, focusing on family issues like workforce development and young parent programs.

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?

Caballero: When it comes to equity, we have to look at our academic outcomes and disaggregate the data to see where are the problems, where are the issues, where are the highest needs, what's happening and what's not happening and how do we address it campus by campus. Often times the district does a one-size-fits-all kind of approach. It would take a more nuanced approach to these teaching and learning issues to make sure we can bring everybody up to an acceptable level on educational outcomes.

Lugo: One of the things I believe the school board could do more of comes down to a few things. First of all, the way that the school board is able to look at and pass a budget that truly prioritizes educational equity. What I mean by that is everything from where are we spending our money, how are we spending it, what are we prioritizing? We have schools ... that do not have functioning HVACs. During this pandemic, that should be a priority for our 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?

Caballero: We need to start planning now, today, for the aftermath. We didn't have a plan March 13, when everything shut down, and then the whole summer went by, and then we delayed. Now we're at home and Zooming remote. We know we are behind and some students have lost six months; some students have lost a year of learning. Some students still haven't logged on. ... We need to find the students we can't find. We need to talk about the students that are in isolation that have not left their homes and how do we get them some in-person instruction, safe in-person instruction.

Lugo: Our job as public servants is to do the hard stuff. We have to solve complex problems, and the only way I've seen that done through my experience is you have to be creative and collaborative. When the solutions are hard, that's when you turn to others and expand your pool of experts. How are we going to reconcile the need for improved in-person and virtual instruction with [accommodating teachers' desires to stay remote for health reasons]?

Early voting is underway 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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