Chronicle Endorsements: Austin ISD and Austin Community College Boards
School’s in session
Austin ISD Board
District 1: Ted Gordon
Although Dr. Ted Gordon has not appeared to enjoy his time as an AISD trustee – or even proven effective in enacting policy goals – he has been a strong voice for his underserved district, and we feel he is best suited for pushing the school board toward the drastic changes needed to balance the budget, close racial achievement gaps, and bridge the district's east/west divide. His opponent LaTisha Anderson is a passionate and qualified candidate, and someone Gordon has said would ably succeed him, but we hold reservations over the amount of time she would be able to commit to the full-time volunteer job. District 1 voters will best benefit from Gordon's experience and determination.
District 4: Zachary Price
Both candidates demonstrated a robust awareness of the challenges the individual trustee district will face in the coming years, as well as those facing AISD at-large. But we are endorsing the 20-year-old upstart Zachary Price because he has something his opponent does not: recent firsthand experience as a student in AISD schools. Price graduated from Anderson High just two years ago, so he has an understanding of current student needs and would be a valuable addition to a school board that is lacking in that arena. He also has other pertinent experience, as well as a solid understanding of AISD's most prominent issues, and should be able to hold his own on a board of colleagues twice his age. Price's opponent Kristin Ashy would serve D4 constituents well, but we feel Price's unique perspective will bring a new dynamic to the school board as it tackles a budget deficit and declining enrollment.
District 6: Geronimo Rodriguez
District 7: Yasmin Wagner
At-Large District 9: Carmen Tilton
Both Tilton and Arati Singh present compelling cases for why they should be elected to the one open at-large seat, but we are recommending Tilton for her experience working within the Texas Legislature. Republican lawmakers in the Lege represent the biggest obstacle to altering the state's dated school finance system, and until that happens, AISD will continue to creep toward a financial crisis. If elected, Tilton would be the only trustee with direct knowledge of how the state's lawmaking body operates, and would be well-positioned to build coalitions with other school districts suffering from ballooning recapture payments, and with legislators themselves, to push for meaningful change in how Texas public schools are funded.
Austin Community College Board
Place 7: Barbara Mink
With nearly two decades of service on the ACC board of trustees, Dr. Barbara Mink's knowledge of the challenges facing the college district is virtually unmatched. She has helped craft policy that guided the college through the explosion in enrollment following the 2008 recession, and the decline in enrollment that came next. She also proved instrumental in helping the college launch its largest campus ever at the old Highland Mall. We believe her experience and continued determination to help the college become more affordable and accessible to more students puts her above her opponent Mitch Fuller, a capable candidate who might have secured our endorsement in a race against a different opponent.
Place 8: Stephanie Gharakhanian
Stephanie Gharakhanian has a thorough understanding of the problems ACC students and faculty will tackle in the coming years, and has shown herself to be determined in finding resolutions. We believe her work with the Workers Defense Project has given her experience in political organizing – important in securing votes for policy goals – as well as advocating on behalf of the city's working-class residents, a growing constituency within the ACC student body. Austin voters will be well-served with Gharakhanian filling the ACC board's lone open seat this cycle.
Place 9: Julie Ann Nitsch
Convincing voters to kick out an incumbent of any elected office can be a high bar to clear, and that holds especially true with Julie Ann Nitsch. In just two years on the ACC board, Nitsch has proven herself a staunchly progressive voice capable of enacting meaningful policy. She campaigned on and was instrumental in passing the district's long-desired child care drop-in program at the Highland campus, as well as raising the minimum wage for staff members to $13 an hour. Nitsch's opponent, Lora Weber, has useful experience working for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, but we have concerns about her knowledge of the district's budget, and attention paid to current board operations. Because of Nitsch's commitment to the work, and her successes, we endorse her for another term.