Axios Austin

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It's Monday, of course.

🌥️ Today's weather: High of 85 with a chance of sprinkles.

ğŸŽ§ Sounds like: "Ride On" by The Nude Party, who are kicking off three nights of shows at Sam's Town Point.

Situational awareness: Democrat-backed candidates won seats to the Travis Central Appraisal District's board of directors in Saturday's election.

  • Meanwhile, residents in three of six districts voted to disannex their neighborhoods from Austin's city limits.

Today's newsletter is 870 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Texas' low per-student funding

Choropleth map of U.S. states showing the amount states spent per public school student in 2022. Overall, states spent $15,633 per student. Utah spent the least, at $9,552, while New York spent the most, at $29,873. States in the Northeast and West Coast spent more than states in the South and Mountain West.
Data: Census Bureau; Map: Axios Visuals

More than nine in 10 Texas students attend inadequately funded schools, per a recent report that analyzes public school funding nationwide.

Why it matters: The Austin school board is considering asking voters to approve a tax increase in November to pay for teacher raises.

What they're saying: "There's really no other option when you have a state that refuses to invest in public education," Ken Zarifis, president of teachers union Education Austin, told the Austin Monitor, referring to a tax increase election.

The big picture: The Legislature last increased per-student funding in 2019, leaving cash-strapped school districts eying deep budget cuts to make ends meet.

Between the lines: The basic allotment — currently $6,160 per student — would need to increase by at least $1,000 just to keep up with inflation, said Bob Popinski, policy analyst at Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprofit public education advocacy group.

State of play: This year could be the perfect storm of struggle for school districts with compounding financial woes.

  • District spending has increased for maintenance, health care, food services, custodial work and utilities, among other things.
  • Texas schools received $19.2 billion in federal COVID funding, which ends in September and will put school districts in a financial bind.

Flashback: The focus of several legislative sessions last year was a plan to provide public funding for private school tuition, which public school advocates said would further pinch school budgets.

  • Republican leaders say it would give families more choice regarding where to send their kids to school.

What's next: Gov. Greg Abbott said he only needs two more Republican votes in the Texas House to pass a voucher bill next year. Those votes could come later this month if his voucher supporters win runoff elections.

  • The GOP-dominated state Senate is already on board.

2. Austin's true rate of unemployment

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

The full spectrum of inequality within the U.S. is on display in an updated dataset released Friday by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP).

Why it matters: Boom towns like Dallas are seeing very low levels of unemployment — in stark contrast to areas with large numbers of low-wage jobs, such as El Paso.

How it works: LISEP's True Rate of Unemployment measures the proportion of workers looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage — and who are unable to find one.

Zoom in: Austin's TRU increased 4.6 points, the sixth-most nationally, over the last year as companies like IBM, Apple and Amazon, with large presences here, implemented significant job cuts.

  • Those layoffs led in turn to a slowdown in service industries (such as restaurants and retail) that rely on tech worker spending, as well as stalled growth in professional services (such as legal and accounting) that support the tech sector, Phil Cornell, who leads LISEP's economic research, tells Axios.

The big picture: The True Unemployment rate tends to track — but also be much higher than — the headline Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate.

  • That's because the BLS rate excludes people who might be earning only a few dollars a week; LISEP, by contrast, counts as unemployed anybody earning less than $25,000 per year.

Between the lines: Within Texas, the range is huge — while the border towns of Laredo and El Paso struggle, the Dallas-Forth Worth area is much better than the national average, at 20%. And in oil-rich Odessa, the rate is 17%.

3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

📢 Local and student groups rallied at the UT Tower on Sunday, the latest pro-Palestinian demonstration on campus. (KUT)

🛍️ East Austin's Green & White Grocery has been designated a historic landmark by the city. (Austin Business Journal 🔒)

⚽️ Austin FC played to a 0-0 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps. (Associated Press)

ğŸ¥Ž The Texas Longhorns softball team, ranked first nationally, claimed the Big 12 regular season title with a mercy-rule win over Texas Tech. (KXAN)

4. Social calendar

Greta Van Fleet in performance in 2022. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Here's what's going on this week.

ğŸŽ¶ Listen to young vocalists in the National Children's Chorus spring showcase at 7:30pm tonight at First Baptist Church of Austin. Tickets start at $35.

ğŸŽ¸ Catch Greta Van Fleet's world tour at 7pm tonight at the Moody Center. Tickets available online.

🚲 Hop on your bike during Bike Month ATX, a month-long celebration of biking each May.

ğŸŽ¨ Make a gift for the mom in your life at the Windsor Park Branch Library Mother's Day crafternoon from 3:30-6:30pm Tuesday. All supplies are provided.

ğŸŽ­ Feel nostalgic about high school at Zach Theatre's "The Prom," a musical where four washed-up Broadway stars rally behind a small-town prom facing controversy. Tickets start at $25. Shows run through May 12.

Be a Local News Champion

Illustration: Andrew Caress/Axios

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5. 🧚‍♀️ 1 magical fairy tree to go

The base of the fairy tree. Photo by Asher Price/Axios

🦄 Asher here, your official fairy-tree correspondent.

Pro tip: If you're on South Congress and feeling bad about dragging your little kids to yet another vintage clothes shop, take them to this special live oak by the northwest corner of Annie and Newton streets.

  • It's got miniature water wells, magical mushrooms, fallen stars and secret porthole doors.
A porthole door.
Another view of the tree. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

The bottom line: Clearly some industrious otherworldly creatures live among us.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Kate Sommers-Dawes and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

🇹🇭 Asher wants to try P Thai's Khao Man Gai, newly opened near Airport and 49th.

🧀 Nicole wants your charcuterie board tips.

Congrats to our Friday news quiz winner Lorna M., who moved to Austin in 1972 and still misses the Split Rail and Liberty Lunch music venues.