The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Saving the Alliance Schools

By Michael May, March 21, 2003, News

The Alliance Schools, a program that improves school performance through direct community involvement, has fallen victim to the slash-and-burn budget battle being waged at the Capitol. The program, run by the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation, has been getting state money for its Investment Capital Fund since 1993. The $14 million fund supports grants to schools to train parents and teachers and run after-school programs. Austin schools got $500,000 in such grants this year.

Since 2000, the rate of students passing the TAAS test in Alliance Schools has increased at nearly double the statewide pace. "This money helps support a process that helps teachers, parents, and principals work together," said Ofelia Zapata, co-chair of Austin Interfaith, the local IAF chapter. "I know how important this is. The Alliance Schools have helped me learn what my role is in my children's education."

Last week -- even as bills were being filed to direct state funding to private schools via vouchers -- IAF leaders got word that House education budget writers had zeroed out the Alliance Schools. Parents from around the state showed up on Friday to protest the cut. The education-funding subcommittee agreed to restore $4.9 million of the funds -- still only one-third of what was provided this year. The IAF continues to lobby for Alliance School funding to be cut by only 12.5%, the amount recommended for across-the-board cuts by the Texas Education Agency. "A lot of representatives are publicly supporting of us," says Zapata, who testified at the hearing. "I hope the rest will come around. This is the only money that goes towards training parents to be leaders in the schools."

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