A School Divided: The history of LBJ and LASA
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Students at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), a highly selective and nationally ranked magnet school, occupy a separate floor directly above their counterparts at Lyndon B. Johnson High School in northeast Austin, Texas. The two schools have separate administrations and classes, although they share sports teams and fine arts. In the summer of 2017, the school district included a proposal to move LASA to its own campus as part of a $1 billion school bond, which the district sent before voters in November. The proposal quickly sparked controversy. Austin’s housing patterns and schools continue to bear the weight of segregation, and some saw the move as rolling back desegregation efforts, especially given the fact that the magnet school was created in part to integrate LBJ (today LBJ is 96 percent black and Latino, while LASA is 50 percent white and only 21 percent black and Latino). Others argued that the schools could best serve students on separate campuses. In this journalistic thesis, I examine the history of LBJ and LASA in an effort to understand how the two schools became so divided, while placing the schools’ shared history in the context of desegregation and school reform in Austin. This thesis also chronicles the events surrounding the November 2017 bond vote, while attempting to answer the question of what might be next for the two schools. Chapter 1 traces the roots of LASA and LBJ. Chapter 2 centers upon how the district crafted the $1 billion bond, and how LASA became a piece of the equation. And Chapter 3 follows the aftermath of the vote and the future of LBJ and LASA.