Near $900M education bond in hands of Austin voters
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The public will now decide if nearly $900 million will go towards fixing a school system strapped for cash and facing a long list of challenges.
Teachers and students say Austin public schools are bursting at the seams. Now, trustees hope the public will open the gate for $892 million in bond money, approved by the board during Monday night’s meeting. It will now head to voters on the May ballot.
If passed, the bond will fund everything from school infrastructure to fine arts and athletics. The majority of the cash would go towards safety and expanding schools to alleviate overcrowding.
"I have not seen a single person, certainly not since the last bond, be able to propose another revenue stream that could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to address these issues,” AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said.
While close to $900 million sounds like a big number, some teachers say it is still an attempt to break even after deep cuts by the legislature in 2011. The money would aide in repairs and overdue maintenance, but as Austin continues to grow, some board members see this is a costly temporary fix.
"We are required to plan for expansion and meet the needs of our students, that is why it is necessary for us to plan well and pass this bond,"Austin resident Patsy Griffith said. "I am not here asking for a football stadium, but a place where learning takes place."
Also during Monday night’s late meeting, the board of trustees decided the fate of the troubled Eastside Memorial High School. They approved a timeline to deal with the low performing school.
In the past, the board considered the option of having a charter school provider take over, but the idea received push back from the community and was eventually scrapped.
"Students need to know that there school is going to be around next year--every year--that I have been to Eastside I have been told that it is going to shut down, that doesn't help and that doesn't help for teachers either," Eastside Memorial High School student Julian Medrano said.
The board has until the last day of this school year to find a partner to work with and lay out a plan to improve Eastside.