Can we close schools AND integrate AISD?

Metz Elementary is 88% economically disadvantaged and only 2.8% white.

As much as the governor and state legislators are talking about overhauling school finance in the coming legislative session, school leaders in Austin, which suffers the most under the status quo, aren’t acting like AISD will be able to keep a lot more of its money in the near future. Instead, they’re planning for big cuts. Melissa Taboada reports:

An Austin school district advisory committee tasked with finding ways to cut millions of dollars in spending is recommending the district close up to 15 schools, redraw school boundaries, and eliminate magnet programs.

I’ve been to three meetings of the Austin School Board and each one has featured ample public comment from east side activists denouncing the prospect of school closures. While the advisory committee did not recommend specific schools for closure, everybody knows that the east side would get hit the hardest because that’s where the underenrolled schools are. That’s no accident; it’s a reflection of a highly segregated district where there are “good” schools and “bad” schools. Families with resources do whatever they can to get their kids in the good schools, whether that means relocating, transferring (and enduring a longer commute), or enrolling in a charter or private school.

For instance, here are the enrollments for a few of the richest elementary schools:

Casis Elementary (Tarrytown): 762

Zilker Elementary: 546

Bryker Woods Elementary: 456

And here’s the enrollment at some of the poorest:

Norman Elementary: 192

Ortega Elementary: 276

Metz Elementary: 285

While the advisory committee recommended closing schools, it also recommended redrawing school attendance zone boundaries, which east side activists and others who desire a more integrated district have been calling for.

If the school board really has the desire and the guts to redraw boundaries –– and meaningfully so –– it will likely incur a hurricane of wrath from West Austin parents. It will be a big test of Austin liberalism. Will self-described progressives push for equality, or will they protect privilege?

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