Dallas ISD Home-Rule Debate Has Been Great for Mike Miles

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Mark Graham
Mike Miles
You know the debate over public schools in Dallas has gone squirrely when retired teacher and education activist advocate Bill Betzen stands before the City Council and offers implicit approval of Mike Miles' tenure as DISD superintendent.

Betzen, speaking in advance of a council discussion on the home-rule proposal for DISD, stopped well short of endorsing Miles, but he argued that the district is moving in the right direction -- graduation rates have risen for five consecutive years now -- and can continue to do so without fundamentally changing the district's structure.

The man who followed Betzen at the microphone, an East Dallas resident named David Lee, agreed.

"I don't always agree with Superintendent Miles, but we both agree that governance changes are not required" to enact reforms.

Story tips: "Home Rule" Drive for DISD May Be in for a Brake Job This Week

This seems as good a time as any to float a conspiracy theory we've been chewing on: What if this whole home-rule debate, with its shadowy rich donors, its embarrassingly ham-fisted rollout, its inchoate and eminently demonizable goals, was cooked up just to take the heat off Miles?

Think about it. When was the last time you read about Miles screwing up? Probably back when he narrowly escaped with his neck following the Coggins report.

Since then, crickets. Even DISD Blog, the repository of anonymous district insiders' anti-Miles jeremiads, hasn't published an article critical of Miles since February 20, and that was a half-hearted attempt to blame him for a child-molesting teacher at Marsh Middle School. Even the performance-pay initiative Miles will be rolling out in the months to come has been subsumed by the furor over home rule.

Could be that this is just a new superintendent finally finding his footing, but the Miles we know and love to hate can't go six weeks, much less six months, without stepping in something that's deep enough for critics to make a fuss over. Isn't the much simpler explanation that Miles and his allies crafted a plan to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a signature-gathering campaign, bring Mayor Mike Rawlings to the verge of tears and allow several important rich people to be portrayed as incompetent wannabe oligarchs all in the interest of diverting attention away from his controversial tenure?

The answer, of course, is that no, that would be stupid, But intentional or not, the effect has been the same. Miles need only tell The Dallas Morning News that he's opposed to home-rule and he becomes maybe not a good guy but at least not an active threat. For Miles, that counts as progress.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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Perhaps the power brokers intended to drum up support for Miles, but he has little if any support from teachers. It's just that Home Rule (spell that CHARTER schools) has even less support. The mass exodus of experienced teachers in DISD continues unabated.

Teachers are leaving for other districts and principals are meeting the non-renewal quotas required by Miles. This is not the way to run a district.

Charter schools would have even more teacher turnover. For what? Charter schools whose student bodies are similar to DISD students in family income (89% free and reduced lunch) perform worse than public schools.

This is about controlling the money, folks.


Eric, I realize this issue is a time of confusion, but facts are facts.  DISD broke all records for lessening performance gaps and increasing graduation rates from 2007 to 2012.  That is what I spoke about.  Miles then came that July and too many of the graduation rate measurements are now going negative.   We had the greatest drop in 12th grade enrollment in over a decade this year!

Why is everyone ignoring this recent data and supporting Mr. Miles as a way out of "home rule"? 


It is human nature.  They want a way to avoid the race war reflected by the group who assumed the name "Support Our Public Schools."   It is too hard to juggle two massive problems assaulting our schools at the same time.

The "home rule" distraction makes it easier to remain blissfully ignorant of the data, the resignations, the non-renewals of teacher contracts, the pending test scores and 2014 graduation rates!  They do not know of the implosions happening with at least one high school where the principal is suddenly gone and 1/3 of teachers there rumored to have contracts not being renewed, and most seniors are still not ready to graduate in April.  They refused to talk about the behavioral sink holes that we have allowed our middle schools to become, ignoring the 400% increase in discipline problems that is accepted as "normal." They appear comfortable with a massive lack of transparency.  

Will Mr. Miles still be here in 90 days?  That question has been asked too many times by too many people over the past year!

Watching yesterday's meeting struggling to celebrate progress, I pondered analogies to the Titanic.  The ship was going in the right direction two years ago with slow and constant progress on a very long trip, but Dallas found an alleged short cut!  

What price will Dallas children ultimately pay before we return to solid, constant, predictable  progress?


Maybe since Miles was not immediately successful in delivering privatization, they decided to hedge their bets by proposing the home rule door.  That way, they either win with home rule, or they win when the citizens feel safer sticking with Miles than surrendering control to the mega rich.  Miles today sounded like he was saying, "we can work this out without home rule, I can privatize everything, too."

RTGolden1 topcommenter

It is interesting to see bbetzen resting his argument on graduation percentage, when in every other article on here, his argument for getting rid of Miles is that the increase in graduation percentage is a false flag, pushed by a falling CPI and falling senior enrollment.

Any port in a storm, eh Betzen?

holmantx topcommenter

An interesting scheme however, all it really took is a common threat to the establishment school district apparatus - the administrators, the teachers, the contractors and, of course, the trustees.

Did I leave anyone out?


the students.  the product.  the unit.

Why, they are just about on par with all the other Big City metrics.

And apparently that's good enough, even if the numbers have been rushed and phonied up.

But the teller was when the Status Quoists invoked (Darth Vader music up!)

charter schools.

And today's DMN Editorial is . . . . priceless.


Stranger things than that have happened in this town.  It very well could be a "poorly planned" effort with a long term goal in mind similar to a gambit in chess (setting out a pawn as bait in order to favor development elsewhere).

holmantx topcommenter


The numbers were manipulated up to blunt draconian action on the DISD, then pushed right back down to thwart reform (Miles).

Now comes another solution that threatens the status quo, and you do a fan dance with the enemy of my enemy . . . 

No doubt (shocker), the TEA will blow a little life back in the numbers, for the children don't you know.

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs When have you ever been 'for' anything?  You, within the confines of this board, are against Conservatives, Libertarians (even though it is apparent you don't know what that word really means), progressives, deviants (your term, not mine) and anyone else who generally doesn't conform to your idealized vision of yourself.

The facts around your statement would be that neither Democrats nor Republicans campaign FOR anything anymore. Both parties campaign against the alleged evils of the other side.  The political benefit to this is the winner isn't beholden to the voters, because they never take a stand for anything.  The societal drawback to this is everything gets blamed on the President, or his party, leaving the sources of our problems to continue unchecked.

holmantx topcommenter

"Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No one was saved"

All the lost children, where do they all come from?

Where do they all belong?

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs @RTGolden1Same thing your comment had to do with home rule.  You mentioned it in your comment, your comment was not about it.

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