AISD School Board Candidates: District 2
The Austin school board is made up of nine people who are responsible for approving almost a billion dollars in annual spending. As many as four of those people could be replaced in the November election. KUT News is profiling the races this week, and we begin with a look at District 2, which covers East Austin, Dove Springs and parts of Travis Heights. The incumbent, Sam Guzman, is facing a challenge from Jayme Lee Mathias, a priest with the American Catholic Church.
The battle for the AISD school board seat in East Austin is a microcosm of a larger debate taking place across the district, and it focuses on whether the superintendent has quashed the concerns of local residents in seeking to implement her educational overhauls — specifically, hiring a charter school operator from South Texas called IDEA to run Allan
Middle Elementary School, a decision that passed the usually unanimous school board 6-3.
“It broke apart an entire community,” said Mathias, the priest who is taking on incumbent Sam Guzman. “And so by bringing in that in-district charter, there are now ripples of fear and concern throughout the entire district.”
Guzman disagrees. “Ultimately, if it’s given an opportunity, at least for a year, particularly two years, this entire city is going to say ‘Thank you for bringing it,’” Guzman said.
That may be the case. But if political contributions are anything to gauge by, Guzman is having a hard time convincing voters. The most recent campaign finance reports show he’s received about $4,400 from 11 donors [PDF]. Mathias has received almost $17,000 from 50 donors [PDF].
“My opponent unfortunately does not have a strong history of listening to the community of East Austin, Dove Springs and Travis Heights, of not being visible, of not being present in the community,” Mathias said.
“To say that I didn’t listen to the community, really is an injustice, particularly to those people I did talk to, and many of them,” Guzman said. “Now if they come out and vote, I have no doubt that I will win this election.”
Guzman has been on the school board since 2007, when he succeeded Rudy Montoya. He was elected to a four-year term in 2008. And he touts that experience as one of his selling points.
On the question of a tax election next year to fund a permanent pay raise for staff and other programs like full-day pre-kindergarten, Guzman says he supports it.
“I’m not just for it, I have been an advocate for it, and speaking about it almost every single meeting, because I don’t want it to be put on the back burner, which easily can happen,” he said.
Guzman also supports asking voters to pay higher taxes to finance school bonds for capital projects for AISD, like buying new buildings, upgrading athletic facilities and conducting repairs. Mathias would not commit to a side on bond and tax elections, which are among the biggest issues the board will face in the next year.
“We will have to make a decision in the next year,” Mathias said. “And before we make that decision, we will need to study all the possibilities, study all of the options, and see where we and our constituents are on the issue.”
Early voting begins Monday. Election Day is Nov. 6.