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San Antonio ISD, critics have differing visions of equity for 19 school closures

A dais on the left where the SAISD superintendent and trustees sit facing a podium on the right where teacher union President Alejandra Lopez speaks.
Camille Phillips
San Antonio ISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino and trustees listen as San Antonio Alliance President Alejandra Lopez speaks during public comments Sept. 18, 2023.

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Officials with the San Antonio Independent School District say their recommendation to close nearly 20 % of the district’s schools is needed to ensure resources are distributed equitably. But critics of the plan question whether closing schools will truly improve equity.

“We have schools where it takes about $14,000 per student to educate while we have others that we're allocating $6,000 per student to educate,” Superintendent Jaime Aquino said Monday, during the board meeting where the district’s initial proposal was presented.

During public comments, however, members of The Schools Our Students Deserve Coalition pushed back on that idea. They said the definition of equity shouldn’t be equal funding for every student.

Equitable schools provide students the services they need when they need them, which will vary from school to school and is absolutely shaped by historic and present divestment,” said Jennifer Tobias, a parent in the district and a member of the parent group Our Schools San Antonio.

The Schools Our Students Deserve Coalition is spearheaded by the San Antonio Alliance, the union that represents SAISD teachers and staff.

Alliance President Alejandra Lopez said equity should be seen “through an intersectional lens that takes into account the various ways that our communities have been affected through institutional, historic and systemic oppression.”

“We understand an equity-centered approach to education as a down payment on the education debt that is owed to Black and Brown youth,” Lopez said, pointing to research on school closures conducted by UT-Austin Professor Terrence Green.

The coalition believes the district wants to close too many schools, and should slow down the process of deciding which schools to close.

To make it easier to absorb SAISD's school consolidation proposal, TPR has listed the changes all in one location, school by school.

Superintendent Aquino addressed concerns about equity during the meeting by pointing to an equity report compiled by the district. It breaks down how the district’s closure plan affects different populations, like Black students and students with disabilities.

As you can see in the report, actually, those who are economically disadvantaged were less impacted,” Aquino said.

According to the district’s equity report, 89% of the district’s students are economically disadvantaged, but only 75% of the district’s economically disadvantaged students would be impacted by the proposed consolidation plan.

Aquino said the question the community should be asking is why something wasn’t done sooner to distribute funding more equitably between the district’s schools.

“Why haven't we asked why some students get more than others? And that allocation is not based on student need. It is based on the size of the school,” Aquino said.

Lopez said in a statement after the meeting that the district’s proposal would close too many schools on the East Side, West Side, and South Side of San Antonio.

SAISD is taking public comment on their closure plan through early November, and holding community meetings at affected schools. Trustees are slated to vote on the final consolidation plan November 13.

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Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.