Austin ISD Bond Passes!

It’s a happy day for families throughout Austin, knowing that the community believes their kiddos deserve safer and more modern learning facilities!

More info in the Austin ISD press release!

Way to go, Austin voters!!!

(Next stop: March primaries!!!)

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Myth #6 (of 6) Against the Austin ISD Bond DEBUNKED!

DEBUNKEDMyth #6: “The district should have been maintaining our schools better.”

Counterargument: The bond is dealing largely with modernizing our facilities, which extends far beyond typical maintenance. Many aspects of our facilities are old, simply beyond repair, and need to be replaced to create a 21st century learning environment. And going back to the car analogy, wouldn’t you replace parts and maybe even upgrade to a new car after you’ve hit a few hundred thousand miles?

Then look at the facilities here: https://www.austinisd.org/fmp and here: https://www.austinisd.org/sites/default/files/dept/fmp/docs/FMP-Update-Executive-SummaryV2-508.pdf show that 39% of AISD’s schools were rated as having a facility condition of “poor” or worse; 22% have an educational suitability score of “unsatisfactory” or worse; 17% were overcrowded; and 27% were underenrolled.

Moreover the district HAS to do a bond because half a billion dollars in our property taxes will go to the state via recapture this year, leaving us very little money to upgrade facilities.  Just think, the bond is equivalent to 2 years of recapture payments to the state, and it all gets to stay in Austin ISD.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7!! If you didn’t early vote, then please vote FOR the AISD Bond, Prop A–at the very end of the ballot! Voting locations for Election Day are here: http://traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/content/images/polling_locations/pdf_tc_elections_2017.11.07_G17_EDAY.pdf

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Myth #5 (of 6) Against the Austin ISD Bond DEBUNKED!

DEBUNKED

Myth #5: “I can’t trust the district to make the right choices.”

Counterargument: AISD has maintained its certification in the Texas Comptroller’s Transparency Star program for meeting a high standard of online transparency.  This recognition is extended to local government entities that provide clear, consistent information about public spending in a user-friendly format.  AISD earned a rating of Superior on the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas.  The district budget is online at https://www.austinisd.org/budget . Feel free to look at it to see how every dollar in the district is spent.

With regards to the facilities planning process, the district has been very transparent; see https://www.austinisd.org/advisory-bodies/fabpac. Moreover,  here is the link to a giant line-by-line document detailing how bond money would be spent:

https://www.aecomconnect.com/AISD_FCA/docs/AISD%20Bond%20Model%20-%20Final_2017.07.27.pdf

Moreover, AISD has a debt rating of AAA from Moody’s Investors Service and AA+ from Fitch Ratings.  These continue to be among the highest ratings available by these rating agencies to Texas public schools.

School board members are elected officials. Feel free to reach out to them directly if you have questions. One way to build trust is to get to know who represents you and to get involved in local elections.

AISD welcomes community participation.  All are welcome to attend the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee meetings to see how the bond is fulfilled.  The CBOC is comprised of two members appointed by each trustee.

Early voting is happening NOW through Nov. 3! Polling places are listed here: http://www.traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/Content.do?code=E.4

Download a full list of all 6 Myths Against the AISD Bond–DEBUNKED!

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Myth #4 (of 6) Myths Against the Austin ISD Bond DEBUNKED!

By popular demand, an easy-to-share, complete list of 

all 6 Myths Against the AISD Bond–Debunked

is here!!!

Distribute widely (but not on school grounds, and don’t use school resources, please!)

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…


DEBUNKED

Myth #4: “The district will just use the money to hire more administrators.”

Counterargument: The bond money will be used only for facilities—not hiring administrators. Bonds carry defined legal parameters.  AISD has outside legal counsel to advise and make sure the district is in compliance with the law.  AISD also has a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee to ensure projects are fulfilled.

The bond will allow the district to reserve its precious Maintenance & Operation dollars for educating students, not for use on physical plant needs.  (The district typically allocates $70-80 million for repairs and maintenance in that budget.) See http://www.mytexaspublicschool.org/The-School-System/Funding/Bonds-101-Questions-and-Answers.aspx for an overview on the different tax rates.

Finally, 100% of bond dollars stay in AISD for our students and cannot be “recaptured” and sent to the state. (The district will send over $500 million collected in property taxes to the state in recapture this year, which is half the amount of money the bond is seeking to raise and nearly 40% of all AISD property taxes collected this year!)

Remember, early voting is happening til Nov. 3!! Here is a list of polling locations:

Early voting: 

http://www.traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/content/images/polling_locations/pdf_tc_elections_2017.11.07_G17_EV.pdf

Early voting mobile locations:

http://traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/content/images/polling_locations/pdf_tc_elections_2017.11.07_G17_Mobile.pdf

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Myth #3 (of 6) Myths Against the Austin ISD Bond DEBUNKED!

DEBUNKED

Myth #3: “The bond will raise our tax rate.”

Counterargument: Voting “yes” for the bond won’t raise the current tax rate, because the district is very careful how projects (and their associated costs) are rolled out, while refinancing at lower rates whenever possible. Moreover, AISD will borrow and pay off loans incrementally (like one does with credit cards), keeping our pacing in check. Rising property values will likely also play a role.

But voting “no” won’t lead to immediate lower rates, because without refinancing old debt, the current rate would stay in place. (From https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2017/09/east-versus-west-wins-austin-isd-bond/ .) In fact, Austin ISD CFO Nicole Conley said that she would not be able to advise lowering the I&S (debt services) tax rate (.113) until 2020, even if the bond does not pass. AISD has proven its financial conservatism by lowering the I&S tax rate by 5 cents in the last 3 years, even as projects from the 2013 bond are being rolled out.

AISD board member Julie Cowan has said, “The board and administration are conscious of the generosity of our citizens.  We take great effort to set a rate that meets our obligations and no more.  When refinancing opportunities arise, Nicole takes them.  She issues bonds only when projects are ready to go.”

Early voting is happening NOW through Nov. 3! Polling places are listed here: http://www.traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/Content.do?code=E.4

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Myth #2 (of 6) Myths Against the Austin ISD Bond DEBUNKED!

DEBUNKED

Myth #2: “The bond will close schools.”

Counterargument: The bond will not close schools. Underenrollment, combined with facilities assessment reports and community input informed the Facility Master Plan (https://www.austinisd.org/fmp/fmp-2017). The Facility Master Plan, in turn, informs the priorities listed in the bond. Voting against the bond will not prevent schools identified in the Targeted Utilization Plan from being consolidated. In fact, it may increase the urgency of consolidating schools because we will have even fewer funds to sustain our infrastructure.

By the way, early voting started TODAY!! Here is a list of polling locations: http://www.traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/Content.do?code=E.4

More debunked myths coming soon!

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Myth #1 (of 6) Against the Austin ISD Bond DEBUNKED!

DEBUNKED

Myth #1: “It doesn’t make sense to put more bond money into a district with a declining population.”

Counterargument:  AISD has a declining student population, and on the surface it might seem odd to put more resources in for facilities. However, there are some other ways to look at the issue, including:

The district has 80,000 students to educate. Even if the district has a declining population, that doesn’t negate the need to repair and renovate our facilities. An analogy is: If you had a car with a flat tire, wouldn’t you fix that tire, whether the car carried 6 people or only 4 people?

A declining population actually exacerbates our district’s need for more facilities money because every child that leaves the district takes several thousands of dollars in funding with him or her. However, buildings–which is what the bond will be used for—is a fixed cost.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the bond in part because the school board is taking steps to right size our district while giving affected communities new, 21st century modernized learning environments. But the bond itself will not close schools, as will be explained in Myth #2, coming soon!

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PTA Bond Advocacy Do’s & Don’ts

PTA / PTSA Do’s and Don’ts

Communicating about the 2017 November Bond

The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a Nov. 7, 2017, bond election for $1,050,984,000, which would bring 21st-century learning spaces to students without increasing our tax rate. On Sept. 7, the ACPTA voted as a body to support the bond.

 

As the November election approaches, we would like to provide a reminder about what members of AISD PTAs and PTSAs can and cannot communicate about the bond when on and off district property.

 

First and foremost, because the ACPTA voted in support of the bond, any individual ACPTA member PTAs and PTSAs are allowed to speak out in support of the bond, but you (as a PTA organization) are not allowed to speak out against the bond in any capacity.

 

While our organization is allowed to advocate for the bond, we are limited in the extent to which we can do on on AISD property (both physical and digital). Please review the following guidelines as your PTA or PTSA speaks out in favor of the bond.

 

On AISD physical properties

 

Do:

  • Tell parents and community members about your individual PTA / PTSA and the ACPTA’s decision to support the bond.
  • Encourage parents and community members to learn more about the bond by visiting www.AISDfuture.com and attending the upcoming Bond Open Houses.
  • Share information and printed materials about the bond provided by AISD. Those can be accessed at https://www.austinisd.org/bond/toolkit.
  • Find your school data here and post on your PTA bulletin board.
  • Hold advocacy events (where you can persuade to your heart’s content) anywhere except Austin ISD property. Some ideas are: HOA meetings, local coffee shops, public library (reserve here), private homes, across the street from your school campus, etc!
  • Pass out flyers and put up yard signs in the public areas that are adjacent to your school. (We have been told that handing out flyers to the pick up/drop off line, if outside of school property, is allowed.)

 

Don’t:

  • Advocate for the bond beyond stating factually that your individual PTA / PTSA and the ACPTA has voted to support the bond. (Off-campus is OK.)
  • Pass out any materials directly advocating for the bond.
  • Use district resources (printers, copiers, etc.) to produce materials advocating for the bond.

 

Please Note:

When you are not on AISD property, you can speak freely about your individual PTA / PTSA and the ACPTA’s support of the bond, host pro-bond events and pass out pro-bond materials.

 

On AISD digital properties

 

Do:

  • Update any PTA / PTSA digital properties directly connected to a school (ex: PTA / PTSA webpage on a campus website, PTA / PTSA section in a campus newsletter) to include a statement of your organization and the ACPTA’s decision to support the bond.
  • Include links to learn more about the bond at www.AISDfuture.com and share the schedule for the upcoming Bond Open Houses, highlighting the open house designated for your school’s vertical team.
  • Share links to bond materials provided by AISD, which can be accessed at https://www.austinisd.org/bond/toolkit.
  • Post pro-bond materials on your school’s PTA Facebook page, website, e-newsletter if they are not run by the school.

 

Don’t:

  • Advocate for the bond on any PTA / PTSA digital properties that are directly connected to a school (ex: PTA / PTSA section in a campus newsletter distributed by the school / AISD employees).

 

Please Note:

When you are communicating through digital properties that are not directly connected to AISD or a specific school (ex: PTA / PTSA managed social media accounts, independent websites or newsletters, etc.), you can speak freely about your individual PTA / PTSA and the ACPTA’s support of the bond, share pro-bond materials, etc.

 

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Bond: 4 things you can do right now!

So the legislative session is over , and now we turn to the Austin ISD bond that will be on the ballot Nov. 7, 2017. For an overview of the bond, please visit https://www.austinisd.org/bond.

The bond is not just a “nice to have” for our district. The literal infrastructure of our schools is at stake! Here are 4 things you can do right now to support the bond:

  1. Make sure you are registered to vote! If you are not registered to vote, and you are eligible to vote, please register by October 10, 2017 (only 3 weeks away!). Info here: http://votetravis.com/vexpress/display.do

 

  1. “Like” the Facebook page of the pro-bond political action committee: https://www.facebook.com/ourkidsourschoolsourfuture/. Invite your friends to “like” it, too!

 

  1. Donate $10 (or more!) to the Our Kids, Our Schools, Our Future PAC: https://donateway.com/donate/xgHY515l/committee-for-austin/payment

 

  1. Mark your calendars to attend the AISD Bond Rally on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2 – 4 p.m., at Northwest Rec Center playground, 2913 Northland. This is just east of the intersection of Mopac and 2222, next door to Covenant Presbyterian Church. Bring your kiddos, and be ready to MAKE SOME NOISE to support our schools!!

Please use the comments to share other ideas you may have!

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85th Legislative Session Wrap Up

Well it’s over.

The good: We were able to stave off vouchers. That is HUGE and should not be underestimated.

The bad: No legislation passed that reduced AISD’s recapture obligation or be of much financial benefit to AISD.

Edna Ramon Butts, J.D., the Director of Intergovernmental Relations & Policy Oversight at AISD, summarized it this way in an email dated August 16, 2017:

There were many bills that would have been beneficial to school districts, and others that would have constituted unfunded mandates.  In the midst of all these bills, the bill that would have made the greatest impact, given limited state resources, was HB 21 by Chairman Huberty. As passed by the House, HB 21 would have injected $1.8 billion into public education and resulted in over $20 million and $19 million for Austin ISD in FYs 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. The Senate removed most of that funding and voted to increase funding by only $563 million for very limited and specific programs.  As the session wound down, the House reluctantly concurred in the Senate amendments. The bill headed to the Governor’s desk for signature, includes the following provisions which, save for the possibility of the grant programs, do not benefit AISD:

  • $212 million for TRS-Care for retired teachers under 65
  • $150 for ASATR Hardship Relief ($100 million in FY 18; $50 million in FY 19)
  • $60 million in additional Existing Debt Allotment (EDA) Funding
  • $60 million in charter facilities funding in FY 19 (first time that charters’ facilities are funded)
  • $41 million for the small-school adjustment 6-year phase-in
  • $20 million for an autism grant program
  • $20 million for a dyslexia grant program
  • Establishment of a School Finance Commission to make recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools.

Below are additional words from Edna, but felt by many of us here in Austin:

Thank you for your support of public education and in particular Austin ISD.  We look forward to working with you during the interim, and remain hopeful that working together, we can make a difference during the 86th legislative session.

(Edna gave us her permission to reprint excerpts from her email. Thanks, Edna!)

 

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