Dallas County Schools is finding itself in the middle of yet another controversy — all while working to assure voters that it has charted a course to right the ship before a crucial vote that will decide the entity’s fate.
It didn’t take long this week for word to get out. Parents emailed me and messaged me, and even mentioned it on Facebook — their children had been given pro-DCS campaign materials by their bus driver, and instructed to give it to their parents.
Reactions varied from concerned to incensed. More than one insisted it had to be illegal.
One parent revealed that the driver asked students to tell their parents to vote yes. “They did this on the same day that one of the Lakewood buses did not show up at all to pick up after school, and the kids had to fit three or four to a seat,” the parent added. “Totally unacceptable!”
Parent Aren Cambre spoke to NBC5 Wednesday, voicing his irritation with the situation.
“The driver said, ‘We’re going not to have a job and you will not have buses if your parents don’t vote to save DCS’,” Cambre related.
“Why is a bus driver campaigning to my child, a minor, about a political issue that he can’t even vote on?”
Whether contretemps or something bigger, the problem couldn’t come at a worse time for DCS. After months of reports by NBC5 and the Dallas Morning News, the agency has been insisting it cleaned house, tightened up controls and was working to present an image of an entity ready to redeem itself.
“DCS has made its share of mistakes, and we deeply regret that,” DCS trustee Kyle Renard wrote in an op-ed we published Wednesday. “Since February, we have made significant strides to correct the past and improve the organization.”
“We have strengthened our financial position, we are current on all of our payments, and we are in no danger of bankruptcy,” she continued. “We have new leadership in our administration from the top down, and all employees involved in recent questionable business transactions have been removed from DCS.”
Renard also said that the DCS board of trustees has crafted new policies in the wake of the turmoil that are designed to create better oversight, transparency, and ethical standards.
So is this latest issue a sign of continued reputation issues? Both DCS and the Texas State Teachers Association — the political action committee that produced the flyers that students received — said the action was not sanctioned by them.
“You can’t do that. You can’t electioneer on the property,” acting DCS superintendent Gary Lindsey told NBC5, adding that he sent an email to all DCS offices reiterating that. “That’s just inappropriate. So, we had that stopped as soon as we found out about it.”
Ed Martin, TSTA public affairs director, told us that while his group produced the flyers, they never encouraged drivers to campaign to students.
“We produced flyers for our local organization, to be used at the polls, at meetings and in door to door canvassing,” Martin said. “I have no idea who would have instructed them to pass these out on buses.”
“I have checked and no one from our Dallas local authorized any such usage of these materials,” he added.
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at email@example.com.