The Austin Community Education Network continues its effort for a new high school for Austin by hosting an Educational Summit this Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St.

The summit takes place from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The meeting will address primarily the need for the construction of a new school in the Austin community.

Issues such as safety and security within the schools, how the existing school could be improved, and steps to improve academic achievement in Austin are also topics of focus.

Each of these topics will be addressed during a panel discussion featuring Chicago Public Schools representative Andy Durback, SACCC co-president Theresa Welch-Davis, and State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th).

The network is a conglomerate of community organizations, including South Austin Coalition, West side Health Authority (WHA) and Eyes on Austin. The group formed earlier this year to deal specifically with building a new school in Austin.

The summit comes on the heals of a meeting last Thursday between network members, including WHA organizers Virgil Crawford and Anthony Bowman, and CPS CEO Arne Duncan.

“We met with CEO Duncan, and he agreed with our position that a new school was needed in Austin,” said Bowman. “But, he said that funding would likely be obtained through Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds rather than CPS, which I doubted.”

“Look, CPS is sitting on over $300 million of surplus funds. They have more than enough money for a new school in Austin,” said Crawford. “They just invested $40 million in the new charter schools, which a lot of people in the community never wanted.”

Bowman added, “This community deserves a school that is not selective enrollment, but a comprehensive school that will effectively educate our students.”

The network evolved from the West side Education School improvement Coalition.

This was a group that was formed two years ago to save the former Austin High School (now Austin Campus) from being closed.

“The purpose of WESIC was to offer solutions for improving grades and achievement at the school so it would not need to close,” Crawford said. “However, when it did close, we felt we needed to shift the focus from improving high schools to building a new one.”

A round-table discussion between members of several West Side community organizations led to the campaign for a new school in Austin, which was the primary motivation for forming The Austin Community Education Network five months ago.

Although, she will not be able to attend the summit due to scheduling conflict, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th) was one of the primary backers for the event, saying that such a summit is crucial to the community to create better educational options for the youth of Austin.