If you thought school districts were supposed to encourage parents to provide more support and learning opportunities for their children, you haven’t been to Texas’ capital city.
Austin Independent School District officials recently announced they are no longer allowing Parent Teacher Associations to fund additional school staff.
Previously, local PTAs would fundraise in their communities to employ extra staff at their local schools, including support positions such as part-time reading and math specialists, Spanish teachers, technology assistants, and even cafeteria monitors. PTAs helped employ these positions, saving the district money, at 12 local schools.
However, district officials now say parents providing their child’s school with additional support is “inequitable” for other kids in schools across the city.
“We respectfully request that all campus leaders adhere to the new staffing guidelines so that we can align our practices with our values, and we can begin to see equitable outcomes across our campuses that we all desire,” wrote the district earlier this month in a letter to school principals.
“While it may be appealing to seek additional funds from community or school support organizations to maintain the status quo, that practice does not align with our district values,” the letter said.
“Austin ISD does not have a policy related to PTA funds, so there has been no official policy change, as the issue is not so much a legal matter as it is an ethical one — equitable schools,” wrote AISD Chief of Schools Dr. Anthony Mays in response to trustee Noelita Lugo’s question on the issue.
“Equitable staffing begins with thoughtful planning around our most disadvantaged campuses and their students, free from externally funded positions that privilege some campuses over others.”
However, district officials’ solution is not to provide additional part-time staffers at all schools—they’re simply taking away from the children who have been given that resource by their parents.
“Despite no direct communication from the district, we have been informed that AISD is intending to eliminate all PTA-funded positions for the 2021-2022 school year,” wrote the Casis Elementary School PTA presidents in a letter to local parents. Casis’ community PTA had budgeted to provide nine additional staff positions at the school next year.
“We are disappointed that such a decision would be made without any input from the PTAs who fund these positions, the parents whose children benefit from these positions, and the teachers who serve in these roles and whose employment would be impacted by such a decision,” the letter continued.
“We are hopeful that AISD will decide to work with PTAs, parents, and teachers to create a more workable solution that doesn’t involve taking away helpful services from our students.”
“Imagine, for a moment, a school district that banned donations to kids because some schools had parents who gave more of them than other schools did,” tweeted the local citizen activist group Save Austin Now. “Did banning donations help a student? ‘Equity’ in this simply means making one group of kids worse off.”
“Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice and private initiative—the building blocks of success throughout our society,” said famous Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.
Indeed, the school district stunting the educational growth of some children in the name of a distorted definition of “equity” is a foundational principle more commonly known by another term.
“Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. “Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”