After Austin Independent School District bused students and staff to the city’s LGBT parade earlier this month, the Texas Public Policy Foundation discovered the district spent more than $8,000 on the event.
“We are proud to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families,” Austin ISD said on its website before the parade.
“Taxpayer funded schools sending children to pride parades is not normal and should not be accepted,” Texas Family Project wrote on social media.
James Quintero, Policy Director for TPPF’s Government for the People project, sent a public information act request to the school district. He asked for a list of any expenses incurred by attending the event.
Austin ISD responded with the following:
- Pride T-shirts – $2,490.75
- Parade Entry Fee – $388.13
- Advertising – $0
- AISD PD (staffing at parade) – $4,318
- Buses (shuttles to/from parade) – $1,027
The district’s finance department made sure to inform Quintero that “all Pride funding and spending comes from private donations specifically for these events. No taxpayer money is involved.”
However, Quintero raised the following question:
What is the legitimate public purpose being served by facilitating this type of spending and how does it comport with section 45.105 of the Texas Education Code which plainly states: ‘The public school funds may not be spent except as provided by this section.’ Needless to say, allowing staff to coordinate the advancement of leftwing social causes is absent from this section of Code.
The largest expense incurred was the Austin ISD police presence, and the PD did inform Quintero that, “Our officer’s [sic] overtime does come from our local general overtime account.”
“My understanding is that Austin ISD PD [is] funded through Internal Service Fund accounts, of which the overtime account is one, and operates using public money,” Quintero told the Dallas Express.
[This] raises questions about the district’s prior statement that ‘No taxpayer money is involved.’ I am not persuaded that this is the case.
Texas Family Project asked Austin ISD parents to “Remember this next time your child’s teachers are asking for classroom materials. Instead of making an extra effort to fund that, the district decided to fund the recruitment of children to attend a pride festival in which grown men dressed as furries marched alongside kids.”
Indeed, data from the Texas Education Agency reports only half of Austin ISD students perform at or above grade level across all subjects.
“[O]ne might hope for officials to put their full weight behind boosting scores before engaging in controversial extracurriculars,” wrote Quintero.
Notably, Austin ISD was not the only taxpayer-funded institution in attendance.
The Austin Police Department, Austin EMS, and the Austin Fire Department also attended the event. Sponsors for the event included the University of Texas’ Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Austin Community College District.
Quintero highlighted that AISD’s presence might “prompt policymakers to close any loopholes where they might exist.”