Taxpayers in Texas’ capital city are being offered a “choice,” at least according to the public education bureaucracy.

At issue is Austin Independent School District’s new series of bonds likely to be placed on this November’s ballot. The district hosted public meetings this past Saturday for feedback, and, according to school officials, taxpayers will get to “decide” between a $1.5 and a $2.1 billion package.

The district alleges taxpayer-financed debt is necessary to “modernize” a series of campuses. Under the former proposal, 14 campuses would see upgrades, and under the latter, that number would rise to 21.

Under either proposal, that translates to more than $100 million per campus.

(Note: These figures only cover the principal, not interest. While interest costs are impossible to predict, recent rate hikes by the federal reserve suggest they could be significant.)

The district’s 2022 scheme follows the adoption of a billion-dollar bond in 2017. Prior to that, in 2013, voters rejected a bond package for the first time in the district’s history.

According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the latest bond proposals would double the district’s debt, heaping even higher property tax bills on the backs of already-struggling Austinites. The average annual property tax burden in Central Austin—almost $9,000—has doubled since 2015. The school district collects the largest chunk of most homeowners’ tax bills.

The district’s strategy is an example of the “rejection, then retreat” technique. Pioneered by behavioral scientist Robert Cialdini, it posits that first making an “astronomical” ask will make a subsequent “merely large” ask more palatable. In this case, asking for $2.1 billion is supposed to make “only” $1.5 sound “reasonable.”

Either ask comes at a time when the district’s enrollment is in long-term decline, and skyrocketing property taxes have likewise fueled an exodus of working-class families from the urban core.

Furthermore, money considerations aren’t the only reason parents might balk at the debt proposal.

As parents have become alarmed over radical gender ideology in public education, the school district in Texas’ famously left-leaning capital city has become ground zero for this fight in the Lone Star State—most recently evidenced by Austin ISD’s annual “Pride Week,” which promoted LGBT sexual conduct to school children as young as 4.

Lesson plans in 2022 included “Coming Out and Pronouns Days” for middle-schoolers, “trans” and “non-binary” teachings for kindergartners, and “community circles” (teacher-led conversations with kids about LGBT behaviors, where children as young as 4 were instructed to not repeat anything from the discussions). District officials later tried to walk back the instruction after the plans went viral online.

Austin ISD even finished off the week with a district-wide “pride” party for kids featuring scantily clad drag queen performances, “pride” paraphernalia (including “pronoun buttons”), and LGBT organization booths promoting more deviant sexual behavior and gender confusion instruction in children’s school materials.

Meanwhile, according to Texas Education Agency numbers, Austin ISD’s ability to teach math and reading to children—particularly economically disadvantaged kids—is failing.

The district is expected to formalize a bond proposal in August, and the bond election would then occur concurrent with the November general election.

Adam Cahn

Adam is a longtime conservative activist and an avid UT and Yankees fan.