School board passes integration, capital budgets

Published 11:03 am Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Austin Public Schools’ budgets for integration and capital projects will mostly remain the same next year, but statewide changes to the Integration Revenue Program could have district officials reshaping integration efforts.

The board passed its 2013 integration and capital budgets Monday. Austin’s integration program will be unchanged at about $640,000, much of which goes towards the Success Coach program.

State lawmakers are expected to hear proposed program reforms by the Integration Revenue Replacement Task Force on Feb. 15 and discuss how the program should be changed. A new set of goals based on graduation rates and academic achievement gaps between white and non-white students among other things will be put in place.

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“The state will be asking us to identify some measurements,” Integration Coordinator Kristi Beckman told the board. “We’ll be asked to identify baseline data to work towards decreasing the achievement gap.”

Beckman, the board and district officials all had good things to say about the Success Coach program, which transformed the district’s integration efforts when it began in 2007.

“They’re probably one of the most important welcoming groups in the community,” Beckman said.

With 10 success coaches and room for a possible success coach for Karen residents, or Burmese refugees, the program acts as a catch-all for new and immigrant families who are acclimating to Austin life. District officials say the program has helped students and families while giving the district information about new families’ needs.

“Not only are the success coaches acting as a liaison from us to home, but vice versa as well,” said John Alberts, educational services director.

School officials say the task force’s willingness to continue funding programs like the success coaches are key.

“Everything in that budget is important,” said board chairman Jeff Kritzer. “I’ve seen (success coaches) in action. They really have done a great job.”

The capital projects budget will remain largely the same, as the district spent about $1.5 million in capital building costs this year, from building improvements to technology costs and leases. The district is expected to spend about $1.43 million this year, resulting in an $897 surplus. The projected capital fund balance will be about $28,000 after next year.

That money will go towards repairing gym floors, boosting technology across the district and paying for a $200,000 water sprinkler installation at Southgate Elementary School, among other projects.

School sells anticipation certificates

Austin Public Schools completed the $7 million sale of eight anticipation certificates to Piper Jaffray Monday.

Board members accepted the deal as part of an initiative to cover cash flow issues stemming from the state Legislature’s decision to shift payment on state aid funding. An extra $27,000 will help defray initial interest costs, according to district officials. The certificates have an interest rate of 0.2907 percent.