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?