Item Involving Charter School's Bonds Pushes Council Into Passionate Philosophical Debate

RawlingsatUpliftBriefing.JPG
"We will not be great city unless DISD becomes a great school district."
This was a good day -- such days do occur -- to study democracy in action at Dallas City Hall. The city council engaged in a smart debate on a proposal to help a charter school organization sell bonds to build more charter schools.

The mayor and council decided not to decide. If you listened to the whole thing, you had to agree with the final non-decision.

This was all about a group called Uplift Education asking the city to give a certain kind of legal imprimatur to Uplift's upcoming attempt to borrow a bunch of money to build new schools. If the city ever agrees, Uplift will be able to borrow the money at a lower interest rate.

According to the lawyers for Uplift and to city staff, the city will never be on the hook for anything even if Uplift gets in trouble making its payments.

Seems like one, two, three, right? The city creates this legal agreement to "sponsor" Uplift's borrowing. That way Uplift saves $300,000 on its mortgage. Uplift spends the three hundred grand on kids and classrooms instead. No skin off the city's nose.

The problem was that somebody tried to slide this whole thing under the council's nose. Whoever was running it, they stayed silent on the issue until the very last moment, beyond the time when the city council would be able to ask a lot of questions. Then they said they had a big deadline and everything had to be approved immediately. Then they slipped it into a part of the city council voting agenda that normally is reserved for small housekeeping items most council members don't even look at.

So what did all of that accomplish? It made the whole operation smell like a Nigerian banking scam. The situation wasn't helped by the fact that Uplift also is involved right now in an effort to build a school in the middle of a bar and entertainment district in what skeptics in that neighborhood are suggesting may be a shady real estate scam.

All of this comes right in the middle of an extremely contentious campaign by the Dallas school system that will shutter 11 schools in areas where the district says there aren't enough kids.

Council member Carolyn Davis said none of it adds up for people in her district, where a handful of the closed schools are. She asked why public schools should be closed and more charter school built, "when we have been told there are no kids in the district. It doesn't make any sense."

Council member Angela Hunt, speaking in support of a motion by member Vonciel Hill to delay a vote, said she felt blindsided:

"Frankly, I have never felt that I was elected to be an expert on our education system," Hunt said. "Having gotten his information on Friday afternoon, I found it very challenging to get through this set of issues in just a handful of days, and so I appreciate Ms. Hill's proposal that this be delayed so that we can have a more in-depth conversation and understand some of the complexities associated with this."

Only about a fourth of the conversation was about the immediate question before the council -- the thing about helping Uplift borrow money. Since the city wasn't going to have a dog in that hunt anyway, beyond the initial "sponsorship," there wasn't a lot to discuss. But a great deal was said about public school versus charters.

Would the city, by helping a charter school organization borrow money, effectively be endorsing charter schools over traditional public schools?

The big bell-ringer on that issue was Mayor Mike Rawlings. Speaking at the end of a two-hour debate, Rawlings insisted charter schools are a necessary factor in the education equation for big urban districts.

First, Rawlings declared his commitment to the Dallas Independent School District: "I love DISD," he said. "Both of my kids went to DISD. As you will see next week, I am going to take DISD on in a personal way as well.

"We will not be great city unless DISD becomes a great school district. The math can't work. These charter schools cannot make Dallas great. These are around-the-edge organizations. We've got to support and hold up and hold DISD accountable."

Rawlings said the problem, however, is failure: "Twelve percent of our students graduating from DISD schools are ready for college. It's only 12 percent. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem."

Rawlings told the council he has been "spending a lot of time" consulting with "minority mayors ... in some of the toughest, toughest areas." He named Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker.

"Every one of them says you've got to have a portfolio approach to education in a school system and charters play an important role in that."

So in the end the council didn't get mad and just kill the whole thing because somebody tried to slip them a Mickey. But they also did not snap their heels together, salute the flag and vote blind approval. Instead they voted to delay it two weeks, allowing for a full briefing on all of the issues next week.

If their questions are answered and they decide it's an OK deal, the council can approve it in time for Uplift's rush-rush borrowing schedule, which involves selling the bonds in March. And maybe next time around, somebody will know better than to try stuff like this on a Sneaky-Pete basis.

They all spoke, and they all listened. Everybody said stuff that made sense to everybody else. In the end they made the right decision, which was not to decide. Yet. So it was a good day to watch them make the sausage. I hope, in the interests of alternative journalism, this kind of thing won't happen too often.
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48 comments
Bbetzen
Bbetzen

By Diane Ravitch (Author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education )1.     Both Republican candidates and President Obama are enamored of charter schools—that is, schools that are privately managed and deregulated. Are you aware that studies consistently show that charter schools don’t get better results than regular public schools? Are you aware that studies show that, like any deregulated sector, some charter schools get high test scores, many more get low scores, but most are no different from regular public schools? Do you recognize the danger in handing public schools and public monies over to private entities with weak oversight? Didn’t we learn some lessons from the stock collapse of 2008 about the risk of deregulation? 2.    Both Republican candidates and President Obama are enamored of merit pay for teachers based on test scores. Are you aware that merit pay has been tried in the schools again and again since the 1920s and it has never worked? Are you aware of the exhaustive study of merit pay in the Nashville schools, conducted by the National Center for Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt, which found that a bonus of $15,000 per teacher for higher test scores made no difference?  3.     Are you aware that Milwaukee has had vouchers for low-income students since 1990, and now state scores in Wisconsin show that low-income students in voucher schools get no better test scores than low-income students in the Milwaukee public schools? Are you aware that the federal test (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) shows that—after 21 years of vouchers in Milwaukee—black students in the Milwaukee public schools score on par with black students in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana? 4.     Does it concern you that cyber charters and virtual academies make millions for their sponsors yet get terrible results for their students? 5.     Are you concerned that charters will skim off the best-performing students and weaken our nation’s public education system? 6.     Are you aware that there is a large body of research by testing experts warning that it is wrong to judge teacher quality by student test scores? Are you aware that these measures are considered inaccurate and unstable, that a teacher may be labeled effective one year, then ineffective the next one? Are you aware that these measures may be strongly influenced by the composition of a teacher’s classroom, over which she or he has no control? Do you think there is a long line of excellent teachers waiting to replace those who are (in many cases, wrongly) fired? 7.     Although elected officials like to complain about our standing on international tests, did you know that students in the United States have never done well on those tests? Did you know that when the first international test was given in the mid-1960s, the United States came in 12th out of 12? Did you know that over the past half-century, our students have typically scored no better than average and often in the bottom quartile on international tests? Have you ever wondered how our nation developed the world’s most successful economy when we scored so poorly over the decades on those tests?  8.     Did you know that American schools where less than 10% of the students were poor scored above those of Finland, Japan and Korea in the last international assessment? Did you know that American schools where 25% of the students were poor scored the same as the international leaders Finland, Japan and Korea? Did you know that the U.S. is #1 among advanced nations in child poverty? Did you know that more than 20% of our children live in poverty and that this is far greater than in the nations to which we compare ourselves? 9.     Did you know that family income is the single most reliable predictor of student test scores? Did you know that every testing program—the SAT, the ACT, the NAEP, state tests and international tests—shows the same tight correlation between family income and test scores? Affluence helps—children in affluent homes have educated parents, more books in the home, more vocabulary spoken around them, better medical care, more access to travel and libraries, more economic security—as compared to students who live in poverty, who are more likely to have poor medical care, poor nutrition, uneducated parents, more instability in their lives. Do you think these things matter?10. Are you concerned that closing schools in low-income neighborhoods will further weaken fragile communities?   11. Are you worried that annual firings of teachers will cause demoralization and loss of prestige for teachers? Any ideas about who will replace those fired because they taught too many low-scoring students? 12.  Why is it that politicians don’t pay attention to research and studies?Add end And another question that came to mind after the initial posting of this article:  13.  Do you know of any high-performing nation in the world that got that way by privatizing public schools, closing those with low test scores, and firing teachers? The answer: none.

AKA
AKA

I was starting to think a little deeper on the issue about why there is not a bigger uproar from the clubs. If they are grandfathered in they lessen the competition in the area making them the only clubs in that area. Cant really hate on them for doing whats best for their business, but still what the DISD is doing to its students and faculty is morally corrupt.

Joyce Foreman
Joyce Foreman

Please Mayor Rawlins spare me the drama. Many of the Uplift schools are not educating poor children. Charter schools do not have to accept all children as the public schools do. By their charter, they can easily choose and remove students. All of these students will then have to attend their home schools in DISD. I am not against Charter schools, but they should be an option for education. I am paying my tax dollars for a system that will take all kids and educate them, not one that can exclude children. My question is, are we attempting to segregate schools again by class instead of race this time? I hope not.

Ybwa1
Ybwa1

Shame on you Tennell Atkins

Daisy C
Daisy C

So can someone explain how a "portfolio approach" improves schools? I know it's in fashion, but can anyone point to a district that's improved because of it?  

roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

In the town where I was born,Lived a man who sailed to sea,And he told us of his life,In the land of submarines, 

So we sailed on to the sun,Till we found the sea green,And we lived beneath the waves,In our yellow submarine,

We all live in a yellow submarine,yellow submarine, yellow submarine,We all live in a yellow submarine,yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

And our friends are all aboard,Many more of them live next door,And the band begins to play.

We all live in a yellow submarine,yellow submarine, yellow submarine,We all live in a yellow submarine,yellow submarine, yellow submarine

Jlewis7997
Jlewis7997

Seriously, someone please request a FOIA request before you make any decisions. This is a scam and it stinks - at least know how they spend their money before you agree to "fund' them. 

OC Banshee
OC Banshee

..understand the vote was 11-3 who were the three? Would hate to thank my council person only to find out part of the 3. 

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

I'm pretty sure Rawlings son graduated from Jesuit, not a DISD school. How does he get off playing that?

AKA
AKA

I was there at the meeting.  Rawlings tried to pull a play out of the Obama handbook of Class Warfare and practically said if you are against this school, then you are against the education of poor kids...and on top of that he started to fake cry.  Hill and Davis did a great job to ask the right questions and Rawlings kept trying to silence them. 

Schools don't belong in Deep Ellum.  Uplift should try 6th street in Austin...Leslie can walk the kids home.

Bbetzen
Bbetzen

Something more fundamental than mis-information is at play here. Dallas is taking its attention away from the children in our public schools, schools that are not performing as they should. Time is being diverted that will never produce results for children in the classrooms today.   Research has not yet documented any consistent improvement for charter schools for all children. There are many reasons for doubt and concern.

Finland has an educational system devoted to equity. All public schools are the best. The difference between schools is minimal. All are excellent! See slide #14 in the presentation Dr. Pasi Sahlberg from Finland gave in California this past Agust, online at http://www.pasisahlberg.com/do...

If Dallas was focused on equity, with a strongly research based design to our schools and curriculum, things would be very different. We can change! See what is possible: http://schoolarchiveproject.bl...

We need to focus on research, such as in the configuration of our schools and the K-8 vs middle school battle ( http://schoolarchiveproject.bl... ) that appears to be ignored in Dallas.

Anonymous Facts
Anonymous Facts

The charter school "superintendents" make more money then medium sized ISD's, where the ISD's have multiple campus and budget planning, the charter schools pay little more then minimum teacher pay, hire teachers that have been terminated from ISD's and private schools.  Then they hide themselves as exempt from minimum scores on state standardized testing. EVERY ISD has to play by to get funding. look up how many relatives are on the payroll

Citizen Kim
Citizen Kim

WHO "slipped it into a part of the city council voting agenda that normally is reserved for small housekeeping items most council members don't even look at."  This was done by a person - WHO?  Why is the council not concerned about that?  Because it looks like somebody in city government is on the take.  This is every bit as serious an issue as public vs. charter schools!

Mary Hasan
Mary Hasan

Charter schools have become the new way to make money.  They are trying to overrun my neighborhood and the core group of their target children do not even live close to this area.  The state does not care how many are in one neighborhood and now the city is proposing to help. 

MinyMo
MinyMo

If you segregate by "class" you are segregating by "race" because most of the "low income" people are minorities. 

A less than clever way to attempt to segregate by "race."

AKA
AKA

Medrano was not there

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Why would he lie about where his kid went to school,the school record speaks for itself.Rawlings supported the request,request was to establish Education Foundation under City so they could sell low interest bonds. The area where Rawlings lives have very good schools run by DISD.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

It's possible his kids went to a DISD elementary.Less likely they stayed for middle school, but still possible.Jesuit doesn't start until 9th grade.If you don't mind your child taking district test after test after test, many DISD elementary schools are a great value.

Politico
Politico

Remember, he is a new Dallas Politician, he has to earn his "stripes" or "colors", by lying as much as possible to "the people." 

Coleman
Coleman

the Obama shit aside, Rawling's right about one thing... I'm against the education of poor kids in the middle of a long-established bar and music district.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

Appealing to sympathy for the poor is not "class warfare". Rawlings did not say that rich people should agree to fund this because it helps poor people. 

I think Rawlings is completely misguided and it speaks ill of him that he considers DISD a system for "poor kids" and that he needs to seek council form "minority mayors". He is clearly out of touch with the realities of the city is is ostensibly leading.

But John Blystones attempt to turn our befuddled mayors words into an attack on the President is even more misguided.  I am in no way surprised, though, considering his taste in books on his Facebook page. And from his picture I would not assume he is a hedge fund manager, corporate attorney, or oil baron at which "class warfare" is aimed. Though I could be mistaken.

More likelty John Blystone is a stoner from Plano (he is from Plano) who lives and/or has occasional gigs in Deep Ellum. He can't make it in the real world and so he blames "Obama" and gets mad on the internet about a world that's not to kind from kids who barely graduated from PESH and then fizzled out after 3 years at Richland. 

Edward
Edward

Can you clarify or give an example of your statement about President Obama + class warfare + being against educating poor kids? I mean, other than piecing together random Fox News taglines? 

Grant
Grant

Failure to recognize the difference between strong charter networks and charters that should have never been granted, where family members fill key positions and don't serve kids, is doing a real disservice to the debate.  It's like comparing a high quality university to a for-profit college that lives on its ability to get students to take out large federal loans but fails to give them a marketable degree.  You wouldn't advocate getting rid of all higher education, and you shouldn't advocate getting rid of high quality charter schools.  Parents are voting with their feet....and they should have the right to do so.  It makes everyone raise their game, including DISD.  The state should close poor performing charters tomorrow, and give incentives to ISD's to work collaboratively with high performing charters.  Too many kids are falling thru the cracks while we slowly but surely raise the academic bar for ISD's.  Kids are depending on the adults to make the right decisions for their future...vs making only the right decision for the adults.

RC
RC

They all know who did, but they all cover each others asses.

Ybwa1
Ybwa1

Who slipped it on the Agenda? Exposed him/her

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I don't oppose charters bc I see them as some sort of job threat.

I oppose them bc they are a waste of my hard-earned tax dollars.

Our school board and our mayor cannot give our money away fast enough.

DISD is killing the city.  Blight, flight, and crime describe almost every neighborhood with DISD boundaries.

Giving away money to Uplift is not going to fix this, although it will enrich Uplift people and politicians.  I believe Edwin Flores has already rec'd his Uplift-related campaign contribution of $5,000 (from an Uplift spouse).

FIX DISD INSTEAD.We want neighborhood schools.  We want families and the middle class in our city.  We want the American dream of community and a sense of belonging.

FIX DISD.QUIT GIVING OUR MONEY AWAY TO PROFIT YOURSELF. 

OC Banshee
OC Banshee

So Mayor and who were the other 2?

Anon
Anon

It's not false to say that your kids went to DISD if they did so for elementary school. But that's not how he used it. The implication the casual observer could get from his statement is that he has a vested interest in making sure DISD serves students and families because he has skin in the game. He does not have skin in the game. He maybe sent his kids there to start, knowing full well that he had the money and connections to make sure private school was an option should he so choose. I'm not judging him. Not a chance in hell I send a kid to public school in this state given the nonsense from the school board on down. But I am also not an elected official claiming that we should give charters money "but really, I know how important DISD is, trust me". And for the record, anytime someone is asking for your money with less accountability, you are getting screwed. I'm sorry, there are no exceptions to that rule in life.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

Yeah, I'm aware. I went to one. And most Jesuit dad's don't consider themselves "DISD parents" even if their progeny did grace the hals of Degolyer for a few semesters.

And for the record I was never test drilled, k-12 DISD.

AKA
AKA

I was at the meeting.  It seemed as if Rawlings was advocating for Uplift in Deep Ellum , not against it. He needs to make himself more clear if he is against it.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

With regard to DISD being a "system for 'poor kids'", what conclusion would you draw when over 85% of DISD students qualify for free or reduced priced meals?

Source:  http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/0...

AKA
AKA

You must be a gypsy oracle.  You read me like a book.  If you would like to reveal your identity I would love to compare resumes. I did not say that the mayor was attacking Obama you are just spinning my words. What I was saying is that he was using the same ideology of "If you're not with me then you are this...." just because you dont side with the commander in chief.

Your comment about me is proof that you do not know anything about me, and is in a clear violation of the Terms of Use for this website. I would appreciate it if you would remove your comment.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

Yeah, I'm not getting the reference to President Obama either.  When did he say that?

AKA
AKA

Rawlings was saying that if you are against this school you are against the education of poor kids. Were you at the city council meeting edward?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

No charters are "high performing".

All of their statistics are completely unreliable.

The "100% college acceptance" stat is a perfect example.

They just make sure 100% of the kids fill out the El Centro form.

People who use semantics like that are rightly suspect.  They are hucksters and rag-sellers.

FIX DISD SO EVERY FAMILY IN THE DISTRICT BENEFITS instead of just the Uplift people and the politicians who support them.

Anon
Anon

With the blessing of M & M (Mike & Mary).

AKA
AKA

Sorry I didn't take a picture of the vote screen they showed.

AKA
AKA

Ill tell you who I know was there for sure. Jasso, Carraway, Hill, Davis,Atkins,Kadane,Allen, Koop , Margolin, and Hunt

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Again, it's semantics with these people.

If you and I hear someone say, "My kids went to DISD" to us that implies that the children went K-12 to DISD.

I agree that he was being highly technical in his use of the phrase--trying to give the impression that his kids were all in vs. just attending temporarily.

Same with Uplift's use of statistics.  They are carefully crafted to give an impression without being technically false.

Most of us don't want to be those kind of people.But then again, most of us aren't trying to sneak people's money out of their wallets.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Well some high schoolers this year get 45 days of testing.3rd, 5th, and 8th graders get literally weeks-worth of testing.

No kids in DISD used to be subjected to this system.It's why you probably have fond memories of DISD.

I want that for all children.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

So, rather than looking at the facts and drawing a conclusion, you assume that you know the motives of the players involved?

You fit right in here.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

My conclusion is the mayor has no desire to try to attract the middle class and affluent residents of the region into the city/district.

AKA
AKA

http://vector1media.com/spatia...They are trying to turn a new leaf into fiscal responsibility, look at that graphic and tell me we cant add one more pipeline. They even rerouted it to go around a majority of the water aquifers, even though there are already pipelines going through those aquifers.

Guest
Guest

Well, you know, if you only very suddenly decide that tax cuts need to be paid for (something that no Republican worried about when enacting/extending the Bush tax cuts), then opposing a tax cut that isn't paid for that also happens to largely benefit the middle and working classes rather than the wealthier classes does reek of class warfare in and of itself. This is a group of people, after all, who adamantly fought against changing the depreciation schedule for corporate jet owners without finding an offsetting budget cut but had to find something to offset extending a payroll tax cut.

AKA
AKA

Obama made a similar reference with the pay roll tax cut extension.  He said if you don't pass it you are against the middle class (not verbatim). The reason why the Republicans fought it was because they wanted the tax cut to paid for some how and that some how was the keystone pipeline.

AKA
AKA

I would say this smells of a real estate scam to hurt the Deep Ellum revival.  And the DISD students and faculty, and Deep Ellum bar owners (and future owners) are just casualties.

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