Texas Civil Rights Project calling on Austin ISD to look at education equality

Attorneys call on AISD to assess education equality.

The Texas Civil Rights Project is calling on Austin ISD to take a closer look at education equality. Attorneys want the district to conduct a self-assessment or they plan to file a federal complaint.

Attorneys Joe Berra and Abby Frank claim there are clear disparities in access and how education resources are distributed to some students and others in low income neighborhoods.

"There are differences by geographic area, zip code, economic and racial differences continue to persist and we want to address how that's handled in our public school system to guarantee opportunities for all," said Berra.

The two attorneys sent AISD leaders a letter this week outlining areas of concern. They want the district to conduct a self-assessment focusing on the distribution of resources including access to high quality and signature programs and effective teachers along with donations to schools.

For two years now Berra and Frank have worked to raise awareness about education equality and with new leadership at the district Berra is hopeful.

"Initially there was a defensive attitude and they saw it as a public relations issue but we want to move beyond that and see it as an issue we can tackle," said Berra.

TCRP says it wants to work with AISD and bring other stakeholders into the process. If they don't receive a response from AISD by January 20th Berra says he's prepared to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

"That would provoke an investigation as to whether these discrepancies constitute de facto discrimination because of the disparate impact on communities of color and low income," said Berra.

If the Board of Trustees moves forward with the self-assessment the TCRP hopes it starts in February and wraps up by the end of the school year.

AISD issued the following statement:

The Austin Independent School District became aware of the Texas Civil Rights Project's call to action during Tuesday night's special called board meeting.

The District believes we have common ground with the Texas Civil Rights Project in that we both agree that all children within AISD deserve equal chances to succeed in life. AISD values rigorous academic programs and educational opportunities that support students and their families.

Throughout the years, AISD has been working with the Texas Civil Rights Project on these issues and hopes to continue doing so.

District officials are reviewing the document and look forward to a conversation about its findings and recommendations.

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