Dallas ISD District 9 Election Could Decide Fate of Potential TRE

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Early voting began Monday for Dallas ISD school board elections (Photo courtesy Flickr/Vox EFX).

In this month’s budget workshop, the drumbeat got a little louder: a Tax Ratification Election would be needed (and an increase passed) to continue some of the vital programs that have kept Dallas ISD’s academic trajectory on a laudable level.

And now, just a couple of weeks before a school board trustee election, many look to the outcome as an indicator — a litmus, if you will — of the fate of that potential TRE.

Three seats are up for grabs, but in two districts — Edwin Flores’ District 1 and Dan Micciche’s District 3 — candidates are running unopposed. In District 9, however, incumbent Bernadette Nutall finds herself facing three challengers — one of whom says he decided to run the day after Nutall voted against a 13-cent TRE last year.

She faces Justin Henry, Ona Marie Hendricks, and Ed Turner.

Nutall has her fair share of detractors, and her fair share of fans. Henry, one of her opponents, had been a frequent pick by Nutall to serve on various commissions and task forces in District 9, and you can often see her at various schools, interacting with students and teachers she clearly knows well.

But Nutall flummoxed many when she apparently arranged for oft-reviled and embattled U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to tour Dade Middle School this month. And for others — her staunch opposition to putting a TRE on the ballot has put them at odds with a trustee they otherwise might agree with.

Of the four candidates, two (Nutall and Hendricks) have indicated they were not for a TRE. Henry and Turner are for it.

As usual, our overview of this race is not an endorsement of any candidate, but rather a matter of math.

I considered six sets of endorsements in this system, largely because the organizations providing them have a regular history of endorsing candidates. Those endorsements are The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Kids First, Educate Dallas, the NEA, Alliance AFT, and the Texas Organizing Project. This meant that there was a possible total score of 6. A point is also awarded to the incumbent, because experience should count.

Early voting began Monday and will continue through next Tuesday, May 1. Beginning next Monday, early voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election Day is May 5. So far, 5,595 have voted early as of Wednesday evening.

The Candidates

Dallas ISD
Dallas ISD District 9 school board trustee Bernadette Nutall (far left), is facing three candidates (from left to right): Justin Henry, Ona Marie Hendricks, and Edward Turner.

Ona Marie Hendricks
Total score: 0/6
Not much is known about Ona Marie Hendricks, who previously ran on the Green Party ticket for Dallas County Commissioner District 3. She is a grant-writing consultant, and has indicated in her Dallas Morning News questionnaire that she is anti-TRE.

Justin Henry
Dallas Kids First +0.5
Dallas Morning News +1
Educate Dallas +0.5
Total score: 2/6
Henry and Turner split both the Dallas Kids First and Educate Dallas endorsements. Henry, a lawyer and former school teacher, has served on several Dallas ISD committees and task forces, including two terms as chair of the District 9 Task Force.  

Bernadette Nutall
Incumbent +1
Alliance AFT +1
NEA-Dallas +1
Total score: 3/6
Nutall has the backing of both teachers’ unions, and has shown a commitment to her constituents. She often takes district officials to task at board meetings, but is seen by some of her constituents and allies as a fierce advocate for the students in her district. She is opposed to a TRE, having voted against it twice.

Edward Turner
Dallas Kids First +0.5
Educate Dallas +0.5
Texas Organizing Project +1
Total score: 2/6
Turner, an insurance broker and community organizer, has certainly shown a dedication to the children of District 9, especially when you factor in his work at Dade Middle School. Both he and Henry are for putting a TRE on the ballot, and both were endorsed by Dallas Kids First and Educate Dallas.

The Takeaway: Without Nutall’s point for her incumbency, Henry, Nutall, and Turner would all have two points each, likely indicating how close this race will be. We would not be shocked if a runoff scenario emerges after May 5. With runoffs for primary elections coming on May 20, voter fatigue may play a factor in who prevails in this scenario, meaning that only a handful of voters could end up deciding who wins this election if nobody wins outright on May 5.

Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at bethany@candysdirt.com.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson lives in a 1961 Fox and Jacobs home with her husband, a second-grader, and Conrad Bain the dog. If she won the lottery, she'd by an E. Faye Jones home. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Online News Association, the Education Writers Association, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She doesn't like lima beans or the word moist.

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