Naked City

Garcia Rates AISD "Unacceptable"

While national security and economic troubles dominate current public discussion, mayoral candidate Gus Garcia has been using his campaign stops to focus on education -- and has dished out some pretty harsh criticisms of the Austin Independent School District. "Although the mayor doesn't have any direct power over the school board," Garcia tells "Naked City," "I intend to use the bully pulpit to do what I can to improve the school board and AISD. The district is not educating our students or reproducing an educated work force. And the mayor needs to do what he can to change that."

Garcia notes that the state rates five of Austin's 10 high schools as "low-performing." As a whole, the district now has "the worst record for educating poor children of all the major cities in the state." When Garcia's own children attended Reagan High School in the early Eighties, they got an excellent education, he says, but the current generation of students is being shortchanged.

Garcia puts the blame for poor performance directly at the feet of school board president Kathy Rider and Supt. of Schools Pat Forgione. "The demographics in our schools have changed tremendously, from 65% white to 65% minority," he says. "I don't think Rider understands what the problem is, and I think Forgione is a statistician who has been too far away from real pedagogy for too long. I don't think he's the right person in that leadership position." He proposes inviting parents to a frank discussion of "what needs to be done in order for their children to have success in Austin schools," and working with the Mexican consul to jointly develop methods of teaching immigrant children new to U.S. schools. "We're not taking this problem as seriously as we need to," Garcia concluded, "and there is no excuse for that."

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