Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Austin

Civil rights group alleges AISD funding inequities

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The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) says schools within the Austin Independent School District are not funded equitably.

According to a 106-page report released Wednesday, private and public funding within the district favored schools in more affluent areas.

TCRP says that while some people might think wealthier schools deserve more private funding to keep pace with the federal money that low-income schools qualify for, in reality, wealthier schools spend as much as $1,000 more per student than the low-income schools.

The group suggests a new private fund raising model.

"You have a higher equity school,” Jim Harrington, TCRP director, said. “The first $10,000 dollars it raises, it keeps. Anything after, over $10,000, one-third of it goes to a community foundation. That community foundation then distributes it to a poorer or lower equity school."

The non-profit group recently filed a lawsuit against an El Paso school district for the same issue.

AISD released a statement saying “Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the district's leadership team have demonstrated significant commitment to addressing funding equity with the exploration of solutions that may include utilizing a student-based allocation method to ensure every student in AISD has the resources to support their needs no matter where they attend school.”

Read the full statement below.

Statement from Nicole Conley-Abram, CFO of AISD:

"It is not a surprise that the Texas Civil Rights Project study raises concerns regarding equity issues in AISD since we have been working with them for the past year.

AISD has fully cooperated with TCRP's requests for information and has committed many hours during the past several months to provide a significant amount of data, perspectives and ideas for the report. Although the district offered to meet with TCRP staff members to review and address their concerns; regretfully, TCRP did not provide AISD with an opportunity to review the report before its distribution to the media and public today.

School funding is a deeply complex issue to understand and is based on many factors that must be considered. For the past three years, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the district's leadership team have demonstrated significant commitment to adding transparency to its budgeting process and to addressing funding equity with the exploration of solutions that may include utilizing a student-based allocation method to ensure every student in AISD has the resources to support their needs no matter where they attend school. AISD's board-approved strategic plan reflects the leadership's focus on children, commitment to excellence and pursuit of equity.

In fact, this past week-prior to the release of this report-the Board of Trustees met to discuss these issues in-depth at its retreat and recent work session.

AISD will use the TCRP report to inform our own on-going analysis to critically and deeply analyze funding equity in Austin."

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