Thursday, August 11, 2022 by Willow Higgins
The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees will vote today on the bond proposals they’d like to advance onto November’s ballot. While both of the bond proposal options the administration recently debuted include a number of improvements to local schools, a recent poll of AISD voters concluded that there is broad support for making the school district more sustainable and creating career pathways for union work.
The poll, conducted by Embold Research and funded by the Texas Climate Jobs Action Fund, a coalition of over 20 unions across the state, found that almost 80 percent of the nearly 1,000 surveyed AISD voters support installing solar panels, investing in water-reducing plumbing and introducing climate change curriculum. Almost 90 percent support improving water and energy efficiency in school buildings, and 85 percent of respondents said they support career pathways for AISD students into Department of Labor-registered apprenticeship training for jobs in the construction industry.
“A clear takeaway for us from this poll is that advancing a pro-worker, pro-climate agenda at Austin ISD isn’t just an option on the table – there is a clear expression of community support,” said Bo Delp, the executive director of the Texas Climate Jobs Action Fund, which is working on a Carbon-Free and Healthy Schools campaign.
“So as schools make improvements to their buildings, as they build new schools, as they get rid of old buses and buy new buses and they replace roofs, we want to make sure their buses are electric, that there are solar panels on the roof and that there are water efficiency measures in place,” Delp said. “We think that this is critical because we are facing an existential threat through climate change and schools are an important way to reduce carbon emissions across the state.”
After the board of trustees decides on the final version of the bond package they’ll submit to November voters, the Texas Climate Jobs Action Fund will decide whether or not it’ll support the measure, depending on if union partners conclude it will significantly reduce carbon emissions and create good jobs.
Ryan Pollock, who is a unionized electrician on the advisory board of the Texas Climate Jobs Project – an affiliate of the Action Fund – says what he has seen of the bond proposals seems to check their boxes. He said renovating and retrofitting AISD in a sustainable way is absolutely within reach.
“If you just look at the numbers over the long term, (sustainably retrofitting schools) should save the school district massive amounts of money, as well as just creating a beneficial learning environment,” Pollock said.
Many AISD school buildings have failing HVAC systems, and some students and teachers have had to try to operate in hot classrooms. School starts next week, at the tail end of one of the hottest summers on record.
“It’s hard enough for kids to keep their attention in a regular school environment. Without A/C, it’s impossible. Teachers and staff are already having an incredibly rough time,” Pollock said.
While there is a long wishlist of needs for AISD schools, Pollock says fixing HVAC systems would be at the top of his priority list. But retrofitting electrical systems to improve energy efficiency, retrofitting buildings to prevent air leakage, and improving tech systems that minimize mold and other air contaminants are all important as well, he said.
Ultimately, what the board of trustees thinks should be prioritized in the bond package is up to them, and Austin voters will decide if they see eye-to-eye come November.
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