Statement from Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Kathie Tovo
Our community is faced with a difficult situation related to the Austin Independent School District (AISD). Despite our city’s rapid growth, enrollment at several AISD schools continues to decline. The loss of thousands of students has worsened AISD’s funding challenges and presents the District with some tough choices, including the possibility of school closures, facility leasing, school consolidations, and boundary changes. At the same time, our city is grappling with challenges such as a lack of affordable housing, and finding places to provide parks and public facilities to meet growing community needs. Perhaps these two sets of challenges could add up to one good answer for our community: opportunities for some community needs to be met on all or part of repurposed AISD properties.
The Austin City Council recently adopted a resolution we co-sponsored along with Council Members Alter, Renteria, and Casar, directing City Manager Cronk to prioritize on-going, collaborative work with AISD to identify opportunities to achieve community goals on all or parts of AISD campuses that may be repurposed. Opportunities could include affordable housing in areas where we are seeing gentrification and displacement, workforce development, open space and recreation, child care, and other critical needs.
The community conversations underway will help AISD decide the future of several campuses, and it’s unclear at this time what the Board of Trustees will decide, or should decide. However, our hope is that letting the District know what possibilities exist to meet community needs on all or parts of some campus sites will, at the very least, be useful data points for AISD’s deliberations.
What is absolutely clear at this time is that the tough decisions ahead for AISD have been made even more difficult by our State’s broken school finance system, which is long overdue for a remodel. We applaud the statements we are hearing from our state leadership, which appear to reflect an authentic commitment to making meaningful progress during this legislative session on adequately and equitably funding our schools, while reducing the burden on local property tax payers. We stand ready to help the State find solutions.
-Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Kathie Tovo