Austin resoundingly passes AISD bond

Sophie Ryland

This sign across the street from McCallum urged all voters to cast their ballot in favor the $1.05 billion AISD bond. The initiative passed with an overwhelming majority.

On Nov. 7, Austin voters approved Austin ISD’s $1.05 billion bond with a majority of 72 percent, or 66,512 people.

The proposal, approved by the trustees on June 26, contained 40 different bond projects, including 16 completely new facilities. The outlined plans were based on the recommendations given in the Facilities Master Plan, which detailed the biggest deficiencies in AISD’s facilities and the changes that must be made to them over a 20-to-30-year-long period.

The 2017 bond is meant to address the issues in the FMP that currently require the most attention; one notable example is the plan to move the LASA magnet program out of LBJ High School and into its own dedicated facility.

“Most people think it will be good for the expansion of LASA,” LASA senior Fritzie Schwentker said. “The campus is really cramped with both schools and the larger underclassmen class size… overall, the reaction has been positive.”

Another major aspect of the bond was that it would not increase the tax rate in Austin, a feat made possible by rising appraised housing costs.

AISD estimates that construction and renovation may begin starting in the fall of 2018.

“We’re grateful to the voters for placing their trust in Austin ISD, and we’re excited to get started creating 21st-century learning spaces for all our students,” Superintendent Paul Cruz said in a press release. “All means all. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work together as a community to make these critical investments a reality for the benefit of the nearly 82,000 students at 130 schools throughout the city.”

The support for the proposal was not unanimous, however. 28% of voters optioned to fail the bond, or 18,581 of those who voted. Foremost among its opposition was the Save East Austin Schools Political Action Committee, who said that though the bond passed, they are proud of their work in support of their regional schools.

“At the end of the day, we have to all work together for our children’s future,” Bertha Delgado, a spokesperson for the SEAS PAC, said. “I am humbled to say that we fought hard for what we believed in. It was not a loss but yet a victory to get our voices heard.”

Travis County also managed to pass two bonds on the crowded ticket; taxpayers granted $185 million between the propositions, aimed at improving local transportation systems and supporting parks and land conservation projects.

Other hot-button items on the ballot included seven amendments to the Texas Constitution, featuring proposals granting tax breaks for disabled veterans and the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty. Voters passed all seven with a strong majority.

McCallum will now receive around $8.5 million, granted a new dance studio, increased capacity and improved technology in classrooms.

“We’re very excited about it and thankful; we can’t wait to figure out the timeline of when it’ll be built and things like that,” McCallum dance director Natalie Uehara said. This helps to validate our program, to give the dancers a space that is dedicated to them as opposed to borrowing space for athletics or theatre. Now we can have more space for all the different activities that take place here.”

In the meantime, parents, teachers, students and administration alike are waiting to see how the changes affect Austin education for better or worse.

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