In DISD Trustee News: Ranger Unhappy With Citizens Budget Review Commission Line-Up, While Cowan Offers a "Budget Bracket"

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DISD via Facebook
The first Citizen Budget Review Commission meeting, held on Monday
On Friday we were introduced to the Dallas Independent School District's Citizens Budget Review Commission, a 10-member group selected by the school board and Superintendent Michael Hinojosa that's been tasked with helping the administration find places to slash and burn the budget -- without losing teachers, at least as far as some on the commission are concerned. But on her blog, trustee Carla Ranger takes issue with the make-up of the commission, which, as we pointed out Friday, is chaired by Uplift Education Phil Montgomery, chair of charter-schooling Uplift Education's board of directors and a former Dallas Achieves-er. Montgomery isn't the only one on the board with ties to Uplift, which is why, Ranger writes:
There appear to be several potential conflicts of interest which are troubling. Persons who formerly served on Dallas Achieves should not be on this committee. This committee should be a fresh start without citizen input being primarily influenced by previous recommendations.

Persons connected to charter schools have a potential conflict in light of the current push to expand charter schools in Dallas ISD (Charter School Ad Hoc Committee).

Uplift Charter has a potential conflict in light of the Superintendent's intention to partner with them on federal grants and charter school initiatives.
But the commission will only make recommendations. The board will make the final decisions about where -- and who -- to cut. Speaking of ...

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On his blog, trustee Eric Cowan goes a little March mad and breaks down the district's Central Administration in to two NCAA-style brackets -- one for Educational Divisions, one for Financial Divisions, pitting departments' budgets against each other by seeds, with the "most expensive" getting the top seed and the least getting the No. 16 spot. (I'm still going with Butler.)

Says Cowan, heh heh, that sure is funny. But also very, very serious:
This light-hearted exercise illustrates the complexity in deciding how to prioritize programs and determining which job functions need to be completely eliminated or partially reduced. Within the budget, each of these departments has other layers of budget codes that range from salaries and benefits to supplies and materials. The challenge is not just determining what and how much to cut, it is important to measure why. Which programs are important to campus support? Which departments are essential to meeting state and federal educational guidelines? How effective are each of these programs and departments?

Dallas ISD might not face the worst-case scenario of a $250 million shortfall but priorities still need to be set. The Board will likely have a very small window of time in terms of approving the budget once the legislature makes their decision. Prioritizing programs and departments will assist in making informed decisions.

The Board of Trustees has two options in how to handle cutting Central's budget. The Board can meet with Administration, review department by department and budget code by budget code, and have them justify every expense. The other option is to agree on a percentage or dollar amount that should be cut and allow Administration to adjust their budget appropriately. In this "New Reality", Central Administration and their support layers need to become lean and efficient in their operations. Our future financial and educational capabilities depend on it.
Over the weekend, incidentally, Cowan wrote that initially, he was "skeptical was skeptical ... of the Administration's recommendation" to create the Citizens Budget Review Commission. "After all," he wrote, "one of the Board's tasks is to review, recommend, and approve the annual budget. However, I recognize this is a positive step towards public transparency and accountability."
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Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

That committee is about seeing what we can take over and move out vs.cuts = whats left.Dr.Hinny knows the conflict is there,that's how he wants it.If they take grants from District many programs are leaving,that has nothing to do with base line budget.The whole DISD has been a joke.Carla is right and has been all along. I don't normally speak on it any more it's so rotten to the core.

Doug
Doug

Getting back to the comment as to why the commission was created in the first place...it appears to be a politicians classic attempt to dodge responsibility. How these people bring some magic level of expertise that the admin doesn't have escapes me. It reminds of the base-closing commission created years ago by congress to get military bases closed. The members of the house and senate didn't have political will to do it themselves so they created a commission to hide behind. In that case it was successfull, though, because they agreed to go with its recommendations...they couldn't change the list. If the school board isn't committed to accepting the commissions recommendations, it's a waste of time....

Anonymous
Anonymous

This is often why companies hire consultants. I didn't fire you. An outside consultant came in and figured out that you were not worth your paycheck and I have already spent so much on this consultant so I better take his/her advice. That's how it works in the private market where they actually want to cut costs. Dallas hires expensive consultants all the time and just fails to implement their recommendations.

Anonymous
Anonymous

The problem I have with the bracket is that it assumes I can look at a number and assess the value of each dollar spent. I don't think it provides constituents with any sort of qualitative assessment (from Cowan) of what departments are performing well with what they have, and which ones could afford to get by with less. Dollar figures by themselves really don't mean much to me. Honestly, I (somewhat) trust his judgment in these matters because I think he would have a better sense of the overall budget picture than I do as a citizen with no connection to DISD other than the taxes I pay. It's fine to seek feedback, but at the end of the day I want him to express an opinion and make a decision. I just don't want this to turn into a situation where the trustees (I'm only bagging on Cowan because he's my district) lean on the advice of a Commission to deflect blame.

As far as what I would change?

http://www.dallasisd.org/demo/...

I personally would look long and hard at the maps on this page and ask why on earth we aren't redrawing enrollment zones for schools. Cutting courier fees and travel expenses are needed cuts, but I'm more interested in bigger ideas because DISD has big budget problems.

Obviously, I don't need to get re-elected (and I'm posting anonymously - I'm willing to take some crap for that but oh well), so it's easy for me to say something like that. I am aware of the political reality that creates and why it may never happen.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Please be more specific.

What political reality would prevent boundary lines from being redrawn?

Anonymous
Anonymous

The political reality that despite their often "failing" status, there is huge identification with local schools in the community. That's not unique to Dallas, or to Texas. It's true in cities in the Northeast (that was a huge point of contention in Washington DC's attempt to reform its public schools), but it's also true in smaller towns and cities in the Rust Belt whose youth populations have ceased growing or are actually shrinking. But people are very emotionally and psychologically attached to having that school open. This is to say nothing of the fact that some people buy homes or relocate for certain schools (less true in Dallas where most of the economically/residentially mobile population sends kids to private). The part of this that's unique to Dallas is that schools are often fairly segregated along racial lines, and the community actually seems to like that a lot of the time.It's every bit as contentious (if not more) than redrawing lines after the census. That one is at least mandated by the Constitution so there's no way around it. The school lines will never redraw themselves unless someone brings it up. So then there's a target on that person's back.

Amy Cowan
Amy Cowan

Elected officials are elected to do what is in the best interest of their constituents. In what will undoubtedly be an ugly budget deficit situation, don't you think you, as a constituent, should offer feedback other than the old "Cowan sucks" fall back line? He did all of the legwork for you. That's the point of the bracket. It breaks the huge corporation that is DISD down in the easiest way possible for an average tax payer to understand. This is where the money is going. Now where are you, a constituent, willing to sacrifice to make this unfortunate "new reality" work?

It's easy to sit around and beat electeds up anonymously for what you're calling a lack of leadership. Perhaps while posting, you could also offer some real feedback? Where are you willing to sacrifice? What program should get cut?

I'll take a stab at it, as a taxpayer, a wife of a Board member, and mom of 2 young kids heading into DISD soon. I'd like to see travel expenses cut (telecommuting works!), courier fees ended (Board members can easily stop by Ross Avenue and pick up their packets, thank you very much), and I would like to see the school year start the day after Labor Day, thereby saving all of that wasted electricity on cooling those energy inefficient buildings in August.

What are your ideas?

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

This constituent's suggestions would be:

1. Not having his wife show up to fight his battles for him.

2. Acting and voting the same way Carla Ranger does.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Here are some suggestions:

How about ask your husband what the board was thinking when it approved $77K in raises in December. Roll back those raises. Did your husband vote to approve them?

Or what about the promotion of Claudia Rodriguez to Chief of Staff? Is she going to get a bump? Roll back her Dec raise and tell her if she wants to be Hinojosa's sidekick, she can do it on her pre-December salary.

How about Hinojosa be his own Chief of Staff? He's not the freaking US President.

Why do we have so many off-campus employees? Cut them by 10 - 20%. SCHOOLS EXIST FOR TO TEACH KIDS, NOT TO EMPLOY FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.

Why do we have such an excessive bilingual program that costs way, way more than it needs to AND uses a model abandoned by other states?

Why are we paying consultants for anything?? Why is this school board refusing to look at TAKS scores of high-performing teachers and then pay those teachers extra to share their methods?

And who in their right mind would vote to extend Hinojosa's contract? While he was interviewing in another city. What an arrogant slap in face to parents of this broken district. And don't tell me they were trying to make him look more appealing to Las Vegas. That's games-playing and we don't people of that character in charge of a billion dollars. Did your husband vote to extend Hinojosa's contract?

I could go on and on with suggestions.

Those board members treat Hinojosa like an equal instead of an employee of the taxpayers.

How the board members can take taxes from their fellow struggling CITIZENS AND NEIGHBORS and simply waste them to buy friends and influence is sickening.

Immoral. Sinful. Greedy.

The blame for what goes on in this districts rests at the feet of the CURRENT board members, except maybe Carla.

Raises for friends, but cram 40 kids to a class. Your neighbor's children.

StopDISDorg
StopDISDorg

How about putting a stop to wasting our tax dollars on renovating schools that will be demolished. Like the newly renovated O.M. Roberts. Millions were spent to renovate the school now DISD wants to demolish it and spend another 22 million to reconstruct a new one. Why not finish the renovations instead of wasting our tax dollars. Yes, bond monies will be used for this project, but if the citizens, voters and taxpayers had a choice they would revote to keep our teachers, revote for better education and revote for preservation.

And...in addition to the reckless demolition of the O. M. Roberts school DISD also seized homes residing behind the school only to destroy them to put in parking lots / playgrounds in-between the remaining homes. Does that make sense?

**NOTE DISD sent the residents letters in November informing them that their property was no longer needed, but they lied...DISD moves forward on spending millions to pave in a concrete wasteland in-between homes.

The contractors working on these renovations and new schools are not suffering through any budget crisis.

Over 1,600 signatures were submitted to DISD for consideration of an alternate plan that is available, but DISD refused to consider it.

Read all about it here:http://blogs.dallasobserver.co... target=

Learn more at www.StopDISD.org

Click on the link below to view Satire Video on DISD's Land Grab

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Amy Cowan
Amy Cowan

I don't know the history of this specific issue, but I will say that I agree that the land purchases made by DISD in my own Oak Cliff neighborhood caused us to lose a beautiful, 100+ year old church... There are many of us that are still upset about this. However, when fighting to save the church, we were told by parents of students at Adamson that we were standing in the way of their kids getting a decent facility in which to learn. Rock = Hard Place.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

"How effective are each of these programs and departments?"

That is a $200M question that the district should be prepared to answer.

Mike MacNaughtonCitizens Budget Review Commission Membermike@dfpe.org 214-564-5316

Anonymous
Anonymous

Creating a commission to study the issue is actually a step AWAY from public transparency and accountability. I can already hear the Trustees talking about the cuts and saying "but we had a commission, and they had meetings, and they talked to people. they became experts on the budget and THEY are the ones who told us these were the cuts we had to make"Step up and do what we elected you to do - get the facts for yourself, and make tough decisions when they need to be made.I never really had high hopes for Cowan when I voted for him for District 7 trustee, but he has so far underperformed even the low bar that I had set for him in my head.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

There's nothing more boring than an elected official b!tching about how hard his job is. Nobody forced you to run, Eric. Start offering real solutions or step down.

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