charterA month after a proposed policy to partner with nonprofits to run certain Dallas ISD schools was taken off the agenda for the Dallas ISD board of trustees regular meeting in January, the matter will once again be brought before the board at its briefing Thursday.

Board briefings are held once a month, prior to the regular board meeting, and are an opportunity for the board to discuss and get up to speed on items that will likely appear on the regular board meeting agenda. It’s also the time they are briefed on district progress. Dallas ISD holds their board briefings at 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays.

Although there had been several posts on Facebook and other social media sites insisting a special called meeting would be held at 9 a.m. Thursday to vote on the policy, ostensibly to hamper public comment, a call to Dallas ISD news and information director Robyn Harris revealed that the only meeting scheduled for that day was the board briefing, and that the policy was on the agenda for discussion.

An email to board president Edwin Flores to ascertain if a 9 a.m. meeting would be called went unanswered, but the likelihood of an early meeting to vote on something that is on the agenda to discuss at the board briefing (as well as on the agenda at the regular board meeting on Feb. 28) is doubtful.

At last month’s board meeting, the agenda originally indicated that trustees would discuss a policy that would set up the framework for the district to take advantage of a state law — SB 1882 —  that was passed in the last legislative session. That policy would permit the district to partner with specific nonprofits to run certain schools.

The law incentivized partnerships between school districts and charter schools by offering about $1,800 per student in additional funding for campuses that are in a partnership. It also was a third option for improvement required schools that were facing closure, and provided a bit of reprieve from that. (more…)

Photo: Kyle Renard for School Board, DISD 1

Photo: Kyle Renard for School Board, DISD 1

Late Wednesday night, Kyle Renard did get back to me regarding my question about her stance on charter schools, since it appeared to change. I’m going to print it in its entirety. I still think that it should’ve been mentioned in her response – after all, the question was about charter schools, with no distinction.

I think it was a great opportunity to be open. After all, openness is something we do require of our board members. All it would’ve taken is a, “Hey, I thought it was an interesting concept at one point, but it never got put on the agenda. I know this seems like I’m contradicting myself, but here’s the difference between the thing I liked and the thing I don’t like.” When you do that, you don’t have reporters emailing you about things they find while they’re vetting candidates.

And it seems like something that you’d want to have included in your list of things you’ve been affiliated with. Such open-minded thinking about the potential avenues of learning would bode well for a potential board member, right? So why scrub your name from the website? Why not mention it?

Anywho, here is Renard’s response:

(more…)

It’s on the lips of just about every mom in my neighborhood: What will this home rule proposal mean for our failing neighborhood elementary? Will it mean we won’t have to spend an arm and a leg for private school, or uproot our family for the suburbs?

That’s exactly what’s happening right now, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings wants to stanch the flow of Dallas’ middle class hemorrhage before the city bleeds out. His impassioned plea is one worth listening to.

“You’ve got to just speak the truth. The problem is that everybody is moving out of town. … This is the big elephant in the room,” Rawlings said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News editorial board this week.

We see it all the time when checking out listings in sought-after suburbs or in Dallas neighborhoods where parent groups have worked their tails off to reinvest in ailing campuses in areas where the housing stock is perfect for families but the schools … not so much. Good schools are a selling point. Underperforming schools act as a repellant. Add to the equation that homeowners are already funding these failing schools through property taxes, and the problem is even more galling. This is the major takeaway from Tod Robberson’s blog post:

[Rawlings] suggested that the dysfunctional school system was a major — if not the major — impediment to our city’s growth and development. It is a deterrent to middle class families considering a move here. Bad schools and school management drive down property values. It’s a civil rights issue.

“Economically, it’s a train wreck…,” he said. “It is broken, and we have got to admit that.”

The key point in his remarks was the breakdown over the past decade in taxpayer funding for DISD. We’ve spent $13.9 billion on public education in DISD. That breaks down to $3.5 million per college-ready student during that time period.

If this were a business, and those were the results based on that expenditure, Rawlings said, “Everybody should be fired who had anything to do with this.”

Now, if home rule does turn the district around, it won’t be an overnight fix. It will take years for Dallas ISD to become the kind of district that attracts middle-class families rather than sends them fleeing once their children reach school age, considering that these are the households who really can’t afford to pay for their child’s education through taxes and then again through private school tuition. It seems like a more logical solution than splitting the district up, which was proposed by East Dallas families through the White Rock ISD facebook page. The two strategies, based on what the commission comes up with, may not be mutually exclusive, though.

While home rule may not be a magic bullet, it has at least started a citywide conversation about the dire consequences of doing nothing.

What do you think? If Dallas ISD makes progress with changes on the district level, can the city turn it around, or is the damage already done?