Historic Austin ISD segregation requires fix

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Photo Credit: Megan McFarren | Daily Texan Staff

“I am unwilling to close my eyes to needless suffering and deprivation which is not only a curse to the people immediately concerned, but is also a cancerous blight on the whole community,” then-congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson said of inequity in the City of the Violet Crown in 1938. 

“Today, close to a century later, we find ourselves similarly situated,” wrote Austin Independent School District superintendent Paul Cruz and president Colette Pierce Burnette, of Huston-Tillotson University, in the introduction to the final report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities. 

It directly outlines the challenges Austin faces in undoing residual segregation and combating current racism. If you live in Austin, it’s worth reading. For a city document, the report is strongly worded.

On page 17, in the education section, the report calls out top-down systemic inequity. A list of challenges includes “the designation of a single entity to address ‘diversity,’ without sufficient, tangible, and ongoing institutional accountability, dilutes the collective responsibility of an organization as a whole to undo racism.”

Unfortunately, Cruz and the AISD Board show few signs of adhering to the spirit of the Task Force’s recommendations in their new Facilities Master Plan, which will directly impact the rate and extent to which physical racial segregation of Austin schools will continue.

Most recently, the Board voted to move the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy, AISD’s top performing magnet school, out of the East Austin campus it shares now with Lyndon Baines Johnson High School. LASA is 55 percent white, and LBJ HS is 2 percent white. 

The Facilities Master Plan would make LASA more “centrally located,” but it would also be moved out of Rep. Edmund Gordon’s district, who is now the Board’s only member of color.

“I feel like a token Negro,” Gordon told the Austin American-Statesman after the vote, “No one was willing to own up to how the decision was made and where it was made from.”

Despite calls for integration from students of both high schools, the Board of Trustees has decided it’s best to simply complete the process of segregation: moving LASA out of LBJ HS altogether. 

“I think leaving the campus area non-magnet program would indicate nothing more than that the AISD Board never cared about enhancing and empowering area kids (those zoned to attend LBJ)” wrote  Pia Sen, sophomore biology major and LASA alumna, via Facebook message.

LBJ HS’s building facilities condition assessment was “very poor”, its educational sustainability assessment was “very unsatisfactory, and it was found to be overcrowded. Yet LBJ HS is slated for “structural repairs to be determined during bond planning” in the most recent update on the Facilities Master Plan.  

LASA is scheduled to get a whole new campus. 

MacLean is an advertising and geography sophomore from Austin. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @maclean_josie.