in Houston, Texas
Austin school system spends Title I funds for low-income students on PR shop
Monday, Jan 30, 2012, 12:00PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

The Austin Independent School District has come up with a novel way to lift the academic performance of its low-income students: spend $192,000 in federal taxpayer money on its public relations department.

The funds are expected to pay half the salaries for a public relations coordinator to oversee three translators, two multicultural outreach coordinators and a language support coordinator.

Among the objectives of what will henceforth be known as the Department of Public Relations and Multicultural Outreach will be “correcting inaccuracies advanced by the media," the Austin American-Statesman is reporting today.

The job description written by the district does not say whether these are existing inaccuracies or inaccuracies that may arise in the multicultural reaching out and the formation of relations with the public.

In addition to the standard-issue "branding and communication strategies," this new cadre will be the "internal key communicators,” to "accurately convey the district's message ... “ and be nothing less than the “ambassadors for district objectives and accomplishments.”

While continuing, always, to correct inaccuracies advanced by the media.

The district is apparently the first in the state to redirect money from Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act in this way. As outlined in Title I, federal funds are used to provide districts and schools with high percentages of children from low-income families resources to raise academic standards.

Alex Sánchez, executive director of the newly named department, says the goal in Austin is to employ professionals to get Hispanic parents fired up about their children’s educations.

And as long as parent involvement is the objective, the Texas Education Agency says using Title I taxpayer money in this way is A.O.K.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of cameras by flickr user The Suss-Man (Mike), used via a Creative Commons license.
Monday, 01/30/2012 - 01:45PM

but but why is the photo for the story a bunch of Sony cameras?

Lee Ann O'Neal
Monday, 01/30/2012 - 03:15PM

Hi, Matt. I chose the picture of cameras because I felt it illustrated the emphasis in a public relations office of getting good press and was interesting visually. I initially looked for a stock photo of something to illustrate the idea of a "news release" or "media monitoring," but I didn't turn up much but some boring photos of computers and screenshots. ... Apparently I fell short of the mark in conveying the meaning adequately --- I'll try to do better next time!

Lee Ann O'Neal, Texas Watchdog

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