Almost a year ago the Texas Civil Rights Project told the Austin school district to examine equity between its higher- and lower-income schools, or it would file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Now the district is finally expected to set a timeline to conduct that assessment at its Dec. 10 meeting.
For years, the Texas Civil Rights Project has argued many of the students in the Austin School District are not receiving an equitable education based on what neighborhood they live in. The TCRP points to several reasons, including inequities in private school fundraising and uneven levels of teacher experience. When the group threatened to file a complaint in January, the issue quickly went to the AISD Board Oversight Committee on Excellence through Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. But nearly a year later, it hasn’t left that committee.
“We were certainly disappointed that the district hasn’t taken more action and the equity assessment is moving so slowly," says Abby Frank with TCRP. At the last committee meeting, board members and the district reviewed the data it already collects that could be used to assess equity, and what data the district might need to collect. The board also hasn't decided if it wants to hire a third party to conduct the assessment. Still, Frank says she's optimistic the district will begin to address the issue at the upcoming meeting.
“I can’t say I don’t disagree with the TCRP," says school board member Paul Saldana when asked about the district's delayed response to conduct an equity assessment. "I think with the passing of Trustee Schneider, the vacancy, other issues unfortunately that have pushed back several important initiatives that this particular board has started. But I think we're getting back on track."