East Austin schools must be prioritized

Emily Severe

Austin ISD’s $1.05 billion bond proposal is expected to come before voters this November. While the fate of the school district as a whole has finally been narrowed down and agreed upon, East Austin schools still face the same problem they’ve faced since their inception — being forced to take a back seat to the needs of other AISD schools.   

Trustees and voters must keep the needs of East Austin schools in focus during the bond election. It is unacceptable to neglect this portion of the district — which bears the burden of gentrification and segregation — by reallocating resources away from the region.

Gentrification is a major problem for East Austin, with increased costs of living forcing economically disadvantaged residents out of their communities. In a historically segregated school district, where most students are low-income black and Hispanic residents, gentrification worsens the already challenging issues of low enrollment, inadequate funding, and a lack of diversity that represents Austin as a whole.

The struggle for the desegregation of East Austin schools is illuminated by the fight to keep LASA, a high-performing magnet school, in East Austin. The bond proposal calls for LASA to move from LBJ to Eastside Memorial High School, removing a key element of diversity and inclusion (one of the school’s founding ideals) from an economically disadvantaged community.

The argument that LASA’s move will bring in a more diverse population seems largely to be a phrase to appease voters. In recent history, the school has seen a decrease in black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged populations despite the opening of 159 new seats. This move also upsets those who will be forced out of Eastside, demonstrating the difficulty of finding a solution that works for everyone.

This move represents the true need for attention in East Austin. While the city council works to combat the impact of gentrification, which forces residents from their homes and established communities, AISD struggles under the embattled bond proposal. The school board must keep up with the demand for change and the pace of the fight for equality in access to resources and education or it will only worsen the issues faced by East Austin’s residents.

To combat the problems faced by East Austin’s schools, AISD has to get creative. Blackshear Elementary in East Austin saw an expansion in enrollment and was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school for its ability to close achievement gaps after becoming a fine arts academy. Creative changes to structure and curriculum, like the change at Blackshear, can help other East Austin schools in similar situations.

The Austin ISD school board have their work cut out for them. To see change and to serve an underserved community, they must not take shortcuts, they must not board up schools, and they must not take the focus away from those who need it most. The way to move forward is to find a solution by working closely with East Austin schools, to listen to students who have a firsthand perspective on diversity, and to implement programs, like Blackshear’s transition to a fine arts academy, that attract a wider range of the population.

Emily Severe is a Business Honors junior from Round Rock, Texas.