AISD approves recommendations, looks ahead on how to fund them

Some districtwide changes require new revenue streams

Four recommendations to improve academic programs and facilities in Austin ISD are moving forward following unanimous approval Dec. 17 by the board of trustees. Two require a new revenue stream, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said.

The annual academic and facilities recommendations (AAFRs) could be supported by a potential bond, grants or a tax ratification election (TRE).Without funding, implementation could be delayed, Carstarphen said.

Dual-language education to grow

In the 2013–14 school year, AISD plans to expand its dual-language program in elementary schools and later extend dual-language programming to middle schools based on need.

Trustee Robert Schneider said he supported the recommendation, but its estimated budgetary impact of $424,000 presents challenges.

"My chief concern is the budget and how we're going to be paying for this in the future," Schneider said.

AISD OKs fine arts program

Trustees approved the Any Given Child fine arts program, which would cost about $1 million to implement in 2013–14. Trustee Jayme Mathias cautioned that the cost is coupled with potential budget cuts in the legislative session.

"This is is something that I think we need to take extremely seriously," he said.

The board unanimously supported the programming, which also received approval from parents, teachers and local artists. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts conducted an audit of AISD to determine its needs, and the program is slated to be implemented districtwide.

AISD board President Vincent Torres said he hopes Any Given Child will provide opportunities for all students.

Travis Heights gains autonomy

Travis Heights Elementary School will transition to a campus-initiated, in-district charter, which will be autonomous with flexibility in program design, budget allocation, scheduling, professional development and curriculum. The school will focus on service learning, blended learning and dual-language enrichment.

No additional appropriations will be needed in the 2013–14 budget to support implementation, according to board documents. Blake Trabulsi, president of the school's PTA, said the superintendent's support was instrumental in securing a grant.

ResponsiveEd to continue

The board also voted to continue the Responsive Education Solutions Graduation Pathways program that aims to help high school dropouts and at-risk students at Lanier and Travis high schools.

The schools started ResponsiveEd programs in August, and the recommendation for the 2013–14 school year proposed extending the contract. ResponsiveEd is a statewide community of tuition-free, public charter schools.