Engage Breakfast panelists speak on challenges in Austin's education system

Education officials and leaders highlighted the challenges in the area's education system at the Engage Breakfast on Feb. 5.

"We've got some very critical issues facing our region right now," said Erin Cargile, KXAN-TV reporter and moderator of the discussion.

Panelists included Texas State University President Denise Trauth; Vincent Torres, Austin ISD board of trustees president; Susan Dawson, president and executive director of E3 Alliance; and Ed Vara, deputy executive director of academic services with Region 13.

The discussion focused on three main areas, including demographic changes and challenges, funding and keeping variety in the education system.

Dawson said in the past 10 years in Central Texas, the student population has grown by about 40 percent. She added that low-income student population has grown 80 percent in the past decade and the English language learner population has grown by more than 100 percent during that time.

"On the one hand, you have a wave of students who are more and more challenging on our educational systems, and on the other hand you have a significantly higher requirement for rigorous skills, both academic and nonacademic skills, to succeed in the 21st-century global economy," she said. "That's what our educators and educations systems are dealing with."

Vincent said securing adequate funding for schools is a paramount issue to address the educational needs of students. AISD is considered by the state to be a property-wealthy district and gave about 11 percent of its revenue to the state in 2012. He said two-thirds of the students in AISD are on free- and reduced-lunch plans, Hispanic students make up 60 percent of the student population and one-third of the students speak a language other than English as their primary language.

"The [recapture] system is not designed to help fund where the students need the most assistance in terms of the amount of dollars that are needed for those students," Vincent said. "It does not provide equity in the way it distributes the funds throughout the state of Texas."

In San Marcos, Trauth said she was part of a group to identify a way to fundamentally change the school system there, and one result that the group came up with was a universal, full-day preschool program.

"If you look at national data, you find that across the system, just the K–12 system, the investment of one dollar in preschool yields a savings of five to seven dollars," she said.

For an immediate effect on the education system, Vara said what the public can to do is get involved in the education system and to ask their children engaging questions about schools.

"I'm going to invite everyone in this room to drop in," Vara said. "Drop in to your schools, find out what's going on. And give yourself the gift of going to a school to see what's going on. It is enlightening. There are a lot of good classrooms and a lot of good things going on."

The next Engage Breakfast will be March 6 and will cover the topic of public safety.

For more information, visit www.leadershipaustin.org/programs/engage.

SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott discusses measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 



Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (left) and Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the media from the Texas Capitol on March 13. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
STATS: Texas reports 3,997 cases and 58 deaths to start April

More than half of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Dogs Around Austin will open soon in East Austin, providing  boarding, training, daycare, pet photography and social media consulting. (Courtesy Dogs Around Austin)
East Austin business updates: Dear Diary Coffeehouse, Dogs Around Austin and new restaurant from Suerte team among openings coming soon

Target recently opened its store in the Plaza Saltillo development and Drop Kick, a cocktail bar and restaurant, is open for delivery and take-out orders on East Sixth Street.

Texas Tribune: Some local elections in Texas moving ahead despite coronavirus spread

A handful of towns and special districts still plan to go ahead with their May 2 votes, arranging polling places despite calls from the president on down directing people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Austin ISD announced March 31 that its school campuses would continue to be closed until at least May 4. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Coronavirus update: Austin ISD school campuses to remain closed through May 4

Austin ISD announced March 31 that its school campuses would continue to be closed until at least May 4.

Austin garbage and recycling containers
Austin launches smartphone app for trash, recycling pickup information

Austin residents can now view curbside waste pickup schedules on their phones.

Lake Travis Fire Rescue is one of hundreds of emergency service districts serving millions of Texas residents across the state. Firefighters, EMTs and medical professionals said they are concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment as the coronavirus public health crisis continues. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
First responders, medical professionals across Texas worry about inadequate personal protective equipment supplies

In a survey of emergency service districts across the state, two-thirds of respondents said they were concerned about a shortage of equipment such as masks, goggles and gloves.

Construction in downtown Austin
UPDATE: Abbott executive order deems residential construction as an "essential service" across the state

If Austin's residential construction ban holds, housing inventory may disappear within a few short months.

A photo of the exterior of The Sobering Center
Austin and Travis County sobering center will provide quarantine for high-risk homeless individuals as shelter-in-place continues

Homeless individuals at risk of developing complications with the coronavirus will be sheltered at The Sobering Center in downtown Austin.

The ZACH Theatre has postponed or canceled all its events through April and most of May. Due to the lost revenue, the theatre announced March 31 it had laid off 75% of its employees. (Courtesy ZACH Theatre)
Austin's ZACH Theatre furloughs 75% of staff

The furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits. All events scheduled at the theater through April and most of May have been canceled or postponed.

Austin City Council is scheduled to vote on the aid program at its April 9 meeting. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council mulling financial aid package for city’s most vulnerable residents

The program would send additional city budget funds to organizations helping Austin's most vulnerable residents.

Data from the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies shows that Central Texas will have a shortage of more than 7,000 registered nurses by 2030. (Graphic design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
With Central Texas facing a nursing shortage, new rules could help more nurses join the fight against the coronavirus

With a potential shortage of 20,000 hospital beds in the local area by June, it is unclear if hospitals will be able to provide adequate staffing.

Texas Health and Human Services announced in a press release March 31 the statewide COVID-19 support line will be available seven days a week and toll free at 833-986-1919. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘It is important to recognize how our mental health can be affected by the pandemic': Statewide mental health support line established in light of COVID-19

Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or other emotional challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic will now be able to utilize a 24-hour mental health support line.