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?

Perhaps the new sign of fully recovered economy should be a McMansion? Or maybe our economy would be better judged by the size of the middle class?

In 2010, while we were still trying to figure out what went wrong with the federal stimulus and which bank was to blame for it all (answer: none of them, or all of them, or just Bear Stearns, depending on your perspective), Time wrote a piece on Aug. 20 entitled “The End of a Housing Era: McMansions Losing Their Luster.” The brief article starts with this interesting bit:

“New research delves into a harsh reality — with tough economic times in the background, large residences are no longer a given.”

I am pretty sure that large residences were never really a “given.” Still, let’s move on:

“Trulia.com’s 2010 American Dream survey notes that from 1950 to 2004, the average size of an American home jumped from from 983 square feet to 2,349 square feet.

But according a July 2010 Trulia-Harris interactive survey, that figure is poised to drop for the first time in six decades. Among individuals polled, only nine percent were looking in the McMansion range: a house covering at least 3,000 square feet, built in proximity to other palaces. In contrast, 64 percent of those polled were looking for dream homes of 800-2,600 square feet.”

Now, 800 to 2,600 square feet is by no means a small range, and even at the low end, 800 square feet is a far cry from a trendy “tiny home.” But, houses were getting smaller, Time said, and the economy wasn’t nearly as forgiving as it was in 2004.

But in a piece in the New York Times this weekend entitled “McMansions Are Making a Comeback,” we see the sprawling suburban home holding fast to the ropes, giving it the old college try, and truly pulling off a Rocky-esque revival.

“When the housing bubble burst in 2007, there was a glut of unsold inventory on the market, and the size of newly built homes began to shrink. In both 2008 and 2009, Census Bureau figures show, the median size of a new home was smaller than it had been the previous year. It seemed that after more than a decade of swelling domiciles, the McMansion era was over. But that conclusion may have been premature.

In 2010, homes starting growing again. By last year, the size of the median new single-family home hit a record high of 2,306 square feet, surpassing the peak of 2007. And new homes have been getting more expensive, too. The median price reached $279,300 in April this year, or about 6 percent higher than the pre-recession peak of $262,600, set in March 2007. The numbers are not adjusted for inflation.”

But how are people buying these homes, if the economy is, as the article in the NYT claims, “weak”? NAHB’s Rose Quint says that people who can get a loan, an altogether evaporating pool of Americans, are fueling the numbers behind home sales.

“People who are less affluent and have less robust employment histories have been shut out of the new home market. As a result, the characteristics of new homes are being skewed to people who can obtain credit and put down large down payments, typically wealthier buyers.”

So, what do you glean from all this? Is it that the economy is recovering and housing is reaching a natural equilibrium? Or is it that the size of homes skews toward the wealthy, which means fewer people are able to buy homes due to a shrinking middle class?