Central Texas taxpayers may be funding far-left political causes, whether they like it or not.
Earlier this month, officials at Austin ISD, a large-but-shrinking public school district in Texas’ capital city, invited staff, students, and families “to represent Austin ISD in the annual Austin Pride Parade.” And to help get revelers to and from the parade, where the motto was ‘KEEP AUSTIN QUEER’D!’, district officials proudly advertised “free shuttles” available for all.
Such generosity with Other People’s Money made me wonder what else, if anything, the district had paid for and the cost to taxpayers. And so, I did what any curious Texan might—I sent a Public Information Act (PIA) request to Austin ISD’s open records department asking for the following information:
To whom it may concern—
Pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act, Ch. 552 of the Texas Government Code, I respectfully request that the following documents be returned electronically:
– A list of any expenses incurred by the district as a result of its participation in the pride parade held on August 12, 2023 (details here: https://www.austinisd.org/calendar/events/2023/08/12/austin-pride-parade). These expenses may include but are not limited to: costs related to the provision of shuttles, staff compensation, reimbursements, or advertising.
Please let me know if I can clarify my request in any way.
Last week, Austin ISD officials responded to that PIA request with a list of different items and expenses. In all, district officials spent more than $8,000 on everything from shuttles to t-shirts to entry fees and more. Here is the complete list:
Austin ISD has received your response and is responding via this email.
- Pride T-shirts – $2,490.75
- Parade Entry Fee – $388.13
- Advertising – $0
- AISD PD (staffing at parade) – $4,318
- Buses (shuttles to/from parade) – $1,027
From Finance Dept:
No responsive documents at this time. Please note, that all Pride funding and spending comes from private donations specifically for these events. No taxpayer money is involved.
From Police Dept:
No responsive documents at this time. Our officer’s overtime does come from our local general overtime account.
As noted in the response, the expenditures were all made with “private donations.” But even still, the district is serving as the collection point for these activities and, presumably, it requires staff time to collect and coordinate what’s going on here. Which raises several challenging legal and political questions. First, what is the legitimate public purpose being served by facilitating this type of spending and how does it comport with section 45.105 of the Texas Education Code which plainly states: “The public school funds may not be spent except as provided by this section.” Needless to say, allowing staff to coordinate the advancement of leftwing social causes is absent from this section of Code.
Further, how does the district’s involvement in these activities advance student achievement? Is there research or data to show that students who attend Pride Parades perform better at reading? Writing? Arithmetic? Given the district’s abysmal academic performance, one might hope for officials to put their full weight behind boosting scores before engaging in controversial extracurriculars.
And last but not least, why is the district putting any resources toward pet political causes when an affordability crisis grips the community? A majority of the district’s own employees are struggling to live here. Shouldn’t that incentivize those in charge to spend taxpayer money on only the essentials?
Thus, while Austin ISD answered the original PIA request and clarified that Central Texas taxpayers are not directly funding these activities, it certainly seems to imply that district staff and resources are being used in a supportive, backdoor capacity, which raises more questions and, perhaps, will prompt policymakers to close any loopholes where they might exist.