Local Coalitions Announce Push for Community Schools in Austin, Dallas, Houston

On October 7 three local coalitions in Austin, Dallas, and Houston launched coordinated campaigns for school improvement built around the concept of community schools, with Texas AFT’s local affiliates prominently involved in each effort.

The community-school approach involves not only a full array of educational services for students but also access to a network of support services for students and their families, meeting health, housing, employment, and other needs—even providing adult education. A crucial feature of community schools is the involvement of educators, parents, and community allies as collaborators in developing and carrying out improvement plans.

In Austin, the partners involved in the local coalition announced Tuesday that their community-based approach, after initial success at a high school and middle school, is now expanding to the entire feeder pattern of campuses tied to that high school. The effort will be supported by a grant from the national AFT and the National Education Association. Education Austin, Texas AFT’s local in Austin ISD, is a merged affiliate of both national unions.

In Dallas, a broad coalition called Our Community, Our Schools, which sprang up in opposition to the attempt to privatize control of Dallas ISD under the false guise of “home rule,” laid out a proactive alternative to the privatizers’ agenda at an October 7 press conference. Community schools—and a new vision of accountability that holds the state, district, and local power structure accountable for providing resources to support students and their families—are at the heart of this grass-roots alternative approach to school improvement. The Alliance-AFT, our local affiliate in Dallas ISD, is a key partner in the coalition campaign.

The new Houston coalition includes the Houston Federation of Teachers and Houston Education Support Personnel, both of which are Texas AFT affiliates. They joined other community and labor groups on October 7 in announcing their participation in the national Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS). This new AROS-Houston coalition called for an end to the “starving, shaming, and shuttering” of neighborhood public schools in their city, starting with a moratorium on school closings.