Last Window Closes on Any Good to Come of Home Rule Effort

Categories: Schutze

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Can't blame Mark Melton for trying to find some less destructive way to settle our differences on school home rule.

If there was ever a window for the Dallas schools home rule initiative to reach some reasonable outcome, it may just have closed. Mark Melton, a lawyer and education activist, made a good faith effort last week to bring about a compromise people could live with, but people told him they couldn't live with it.

That puts the home rule effort on an absurdly short fuse. The concept here is that 25,000 people sign petitions; the school board appoints a commission to write a new constitutional charter for the district; the state commissioner of education reviews the charter to see if it's legal; if it is, the charter is put on the ballot for Dallas voters to kill or approve.

The deadline for going on the ballot is mid-August. It would have to go to the education commissioner by mid-July. It sounds like the home rulers are ready to turn in their petitions. This is almost mid-May.

Turn it around. It takes five days for election workers to verify signatures on the petitions. So let's say that gets done next week. All that does is trigger a huge cat-fight on the school board about whom to appoint to serve on the charter commission. But let's say the home rulers have the votes to slam-dunk something through by the first of June. Now we have more or less 45 days for the commission to come up with a new system of governance for the Dallas school system.

Not that it couldn't be done, theoretically. But in order to get the whole process worked out that fast, there would have to be a certain preordained agenda and group pushing the final work product. But it is precisely that appearance -- a preordained agenda pushed by a shadowy group hoping to skirt the agonies of democracy -- that has been the Achilles' heal of the entire effort from the beginning. Everything has been too fast for a first date.

I talked to Melton after his effort at effecting a compromise had failed. He was clearly disappointed, but I think he also had some respect for the feelings and opinions of the people who shot him down. He wanted to come up with a version of home rule that all parties could live with and thereby head off terribly divisive fights he fears may still lie ahead in the process. He said community and teacher union leaders told him they just couldn't think of any reason to support any version of it. At all.

That's really too bad. We're sort of torn at this moment between the increasing promise of school reform under Superintendent Mike Miles and the system we've got already versus the possibility of improvement multiplied by whole magnitudes with a better system of governance in place.

I get why the anti-home-rule people don't like the hurry-up. The existing system has been around for 130 years. Why do we have to invent a new one in six weeks?

But I have to admit I also get depressed by the faculty of the status quo-sters to constantly invent arguments for not doing anything much about the district's appalling history of failure. Mayor Mike Rawlings challenged school trustee Bernadette Nutall on a recent radio show to explain why Houston, with the same demographics and the same state laws, produces twice the percentage of college-ready graduates as Dallas.

We reported that here. A commenter said, "... it's partly because they have more middle class kids. Houston's 'Highland Park' is inside HISD, whereas our Park Cities are in their own ISD." 

I commented back that we still have to explain why Houston's white kids are so much smarter than our white kids. According to the Texas Education Agency, 60.2 percent of the white 2011 SAT/ACT takers in Houston were at or above the college-readiness criterion, while only 44.6 percent of our white kids in Dallas made the grade."

Another commenter came back: "Seagoville whites have by far the lowest SAT average in the region. If we exclude Seagoville from DISD the average white SAT score goes up from 1606 to 1625."

Interesting thought: Our white kids would be as smart as Houston's white kids if we just killed off Seagoville. But, wait. Wouldn't we have to give Houston a chance to kill off their poor white kids? Surely there are poor white kids in Houston, not just all River Oaks prepsters.

Darn poor kids anyway. Things would be so much simpler without any of them.

The whole argument is absurd. There simply is no denying that something is terribly wrong with the way we have run schools here. The only debate should be whether we try to fix it the gradual way, sticking with Miles and incremental reform within the system as it exists, or go the more radical route with home rule.

I would assume Melton's inability to put a compromise on the table in advance probably means home rule is toast. The school board won't be able to come up with a charter commission that's even committed to its own mission, let alone capable of coming up with something the voters will support. Let's just hope they don't all burn the place down in the process.


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44 comments
catmarie47
catmarie47

There are numerous reasons why opponents are against home rule, Schutze.  You only touched on a couple of minor issues... as usual.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Comparing Houston and Dallas. . We have some better schools pushed off into RISD. Does Houston do similar? And how would the comparison change if both districts were aggregated the same way?

Bigz
Bigz

Jim you should just go write for the DMN editorial. Your views are lock step concerning southern Dallas. Just a year ago you and DMN editorial praised Burnadette Nutall for closing down 9 school. Now how times have changed you and DMN take every chance to take a shot at her. With out Nutall taken the money and closing the schools there would be no home rule push. My granddaddy use to say give them a inch and they take a mile. Jim have DMN paid you off like they did wilonsky when he broke the education finance story.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

My take-away from this is that, apparently, @bvckvs graduated from Seagoville High School.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

So Houston uses home rule to do a better job than Dallas? Does any major metropolitan area anywhere use home rule to do a better job than Dallas? I'm certainly not on board with everything Miles proposes, but I'm actually a fan of "go slow." Too often, this board and previous supers have gone for quick fixes that usually involved trends of the minute or really clever ideas like nuking the magnets.


Really fixing DISD is going to be a as long, slow and ugly a process as running it into the ground was, and the sooner we admit this, the sooner we can start incrementally improving it.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

The reason it died is it was started in the standard Dallas way. An insider deal with FOwhomever staying behind the curtain.

It was gonna end up like the whitewater CFOBP, or the Trinity toll road, or drilling in Dallas. ....

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I do not understand the concern of people against Home Rule.  When was the last time 25 or 30% of electorate voted in a DISD election.  The trustees can simply make sure it is not in any other election, maybe several weeks after a primary runoff to further confuse the issue and let the nature of the lazy Dallas electorate take its course.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

It took a temporary coalition of the willing to block it from reaching the People. 

Then it's right back to dumping Miles once the DISD Trustees, the Teachers,  the administrators, the contractors and the activists are assured the citizen cannot tun their flank.

Besides.  It was an heroic effort to temporarily bellow up the metrics. then push them right back down in order to eject Miles.

We need a class-action lawsuit by the damaged - the former students.  Hit the beast in the pocket book.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

So JIM how did the SOPS go from a Powerful force reckoned with to almost not there at all ? My goodness it seemed as if VICTORY was theirs that week of the roll out .

So why is this fellow out trying to do what ever it is he is trying to do ?



James_the_P3
James_the_P3

Consistent studies show that the single greatest predictor of a student's academic performance is the parents' income and education level.  So killing off the poor white kids in Seagoville isn't necessary.  All you would need to bring DISD up to HISD's level is to include all of the kids in Highland Park (of whatever race) whose parents are almost uniformly wealthy and well-educated.


That doesn't excuse DISD's atrocious record with students whose parents aren't wealthy or well-educated.  It is simply to note that the HISD model isn't exactly an even playing field.


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Just off the phone with Mark Melton, who tells me he is anything but done with this, still on the war path,. still hopeful he will be able to put something together. I tried to tell him that if everything ends in a reasonable compromise, then I have to go get a real job, but he must have been simo-talk-texting (simoing) because he seemed not to hear me. 

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

While I loathe your DISD columns Jim, out of curiosity what would be the next election after this one? Is there a municipal one next year it could be added on to?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ozonelarryb

I think you give the "insiders" too much credit... on this one. 

Some of the folks certainly had hopes of making big money off of Home Rule.  But for the most part, it was just a half-baked idea put out there by half-wit politicians who hoped to appeal to anti-establishment interests (e.g. Tea Partiers and Libertarians).

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@MikeWestEast

The real concern here is that it's not a well thought-out plan.  Whenever anyone asks for details, the religious folks and conservatives behind the initiative dismiss them, saying that details will come at some unspecified future date.  When asked who will provide those details, they say it's a group of people who have not yet been named.

There were a couple of meetings where the public pressed for the details, but instead of providing answers, the Republican mayor and his supporters became emotional and at one point, the mayor even threw a tantrum and walked out of the meeting.


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@holmantx  

I fear you may be right about Miles. Beating Home Rule may just whet the appetites of  the status quosters. 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@James_the_P3  

James, I Iost you somewhere between Houston and Highland Park.

This is one of those (many) times when I wish I were Tina Turner, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu8KFlfzk3Y so I could sing to you, “What’s Highland Park Got to Do With It?”


Below are the 2011 numbers from the Texas Education Agency. The playing field between Houston and Dallas looks pretty damned flat to me socio-economically, unless you want to get out your magnifying glass, whereas Highland Park, by comparison, is a playing field on another planet.  

TEA AEIS data: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/cgi/sas/broker

Economically Disadvantaged (free lunch or other public assistance): Houston 80.7%; Dallas 86.1% ; Highland Park 0%.

Limited English Proficient (LEP): Houston, 30.0%; Dallas 39.2%; Highland Park 0.7 %.

Students w/Disciplinary Placements (2010-11: Houston, 1.6%; Dallas 1.6% ; Highlanf Park 0.1 %.

 At-Risk: Houston, 62.1%; Dallas 61.8%; Highland Park 9.2% (*special waiver granted 2010, Highland Park ISD may define “at-risk” as never having been to Europe.)

Guesty
Guesty

@JimSX I don't see anything happening with this.  The most ardent of the anti-home rule crowd already hated Mark Melton.  He's a good cautionary tale of why anyone would be a fool to stick their necks out in favor of any reform.  There are only enemies to be made.     

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@JimSX Don't worry, I think the only job you could get would be at the horse park.  j/k

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@P1Gunter  

Can't get enough voters. Home Rule law -- a really piece if shit law, by the way -- requires some huge percentage of the electorate to pass, and, as we know, the attitude of most Dallas voters toward city elections is, "What city?" 

catmarie47
catmarie47

@bvckvs You're right with the exception of the Tea Partiers and Libertarians being involved as the leaders. The leaders of this group includes a mixture of Democrats, and Republicans.  All involved see this as a power and money grab that the grassroots organizations are going to fight full throttle!  I promise you that...

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bvckvs  

there are no TEA Parties or Libertarians in the CITY of Dallas.

and the politicians who put this up are Democrats.

And name one identifiable group that has officially endorsed it.

Oxtail
Oxtail

@bvckvs  Ummm.... You mean:

"....There were a couple of meetings where the public pressed for the details, but instead of providing answers, the DEMOCRAT mayor and his supporters became emotional and at one point, the mayor even threw a tantrum and walked out of the meeting."

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs You do realize the Mayor is a Democrat, right?  Regardless of what his personal ideology is, the local Democrats ran him on their ticket and he won with their votes.  You want to blame a party for this current situation, blame the party that has a lock grip on Dallas politics, The Democrats.

The only thing more evident than your total obliviousness to reality is your total immersion in the fanciful world of your own imagination.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@JimSX @holmantxSo "HOME RULE"  made an announcement  And collected signatures   Part of Step one ( I Guess )

What is the next step in the process.  

Do the legal bits before they preset them to the school board  ?

Has any time limit started where a date for the second part of first step has to be completed .




mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@JimSX

a really piece if shit law, by the way 

why is it a "POS law"? the mandated thresholds seem to be well intentioned IMHO so the implementation must have support from the community, not just a group within the community

requires some huge percentage of the electorate to pass

it must be approved by a majority of the voters in an election with turnout of 25% of the registered voters.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

So it would be November of 2016 I presume?

catmarie47
catmarie47

@bvckvs

"As for your comment that "All involved see this..." - it's patently false.  You'll never find any political issue in any large metropolitan area in which all involved share a common vision."


I disagree, and your statement makes no sense whatsoever.  At least one common vision must be shared by groups (political or not). And, this SOPS group knows EXACTLY what they want to change, and our organizations know EXACTLY what our issues are, and what we are fighting against.  But, it is your opinion, whatever it's worth.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@catmarie47 @bvckvs

I never said, nor do I believe that Tea Partiers or Libertarians were the "leaders".  In fact, one of the signature characteristics of both groups is that they have no leadership qualities.  They're just hecklers.

What I said was that this initiative was meant to appeal to their interests - changing things without having a clear view of what they want changed to.

As for your comment that "All involved see this..." - it's patently false.  You'll never find any political issue in any large metropolitan area in which all involved share a common vision.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@Guesty @RTGolden1@oakclifftownie@holmantx Thanks for taking the time to try and simplify this for me.

I am still left to wonder what the heck were these folks thinking ?

Not so much about the schools .

But about accomplishing their own task and everything that is involved with the process and  they seemed to really be pushing for the November election .

I don't think I would want them on the School Carnival Committee 

 





Guesty
Guesty

@RTGolden1 @oakclifftownie@holmantx


"it must also be sent to a court in DC to verify that it complies with the VRA" -- I believe the SCOTUS killed preclearance, so I'm not sure if this step is actually required. 


The timeline comes from the view of some that there isn't a chance of getting the required number of registered voters to vote on a charter unless it is on the ballot of a presidential election.   

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@oakclifftownie @holmantxPetitions, with the required signatures, forces the board to appoint the committee.  The committee has up to a year to come up with a charter, which spells out home rule governance of the district.  The charter is sent to the State for approval, it must still adhere to the State education standards.  If the State decides the new charter requires a change in governance to the district, it must also be sent to a court in DC to verify that it complies with the VRA.

If it finally comes back approved, the commission puts it up for a vote.  It must be voted on in an election in which 25% of the registered voters participate, and must pass by a majority.  If the required number of voters doesn't participate, the commission can schedule another election, and so on and so forth until they somehow convince 25% of the registered voters to participate.  Or they can give up on it.  I don't know where Jim comes up with the August timeline, there is nothing in the state statute about a deadline.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@holmantx Help me out here .The petitions were never presented ? 

I guess misunderstood that they would force it to a vote of some kind ? 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@oakclifftownie  

It'll never get out of committee.  Or if it does, the fix will be in on the formation of it.

Just put in the words - charter school (ha!).  It would be like attaching a Limpet mine.

and it appears all that is needed is to fumble and mumble it past this short window, then it's gone for a long long time.

Kinda like the City Council is doing with Virgin Airlines' gate awards, but without the spotlight.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

I believe my remarks were directed at turnout.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs @mavdog@JimSX5% of the registered voters have to sign the petition.  A simple majority of the voters is required to pass it, as long as 25% of the registered voters of the district participate (A tall order in DISD)  If the required number of voters don't participate, the board or the appointed commission can order another vote at the next election, and can continue to do so until they get an election with 25% participation.


Read this:  http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.12.htm  , 


It's the state law governing this process.  Get informed first, then type.  You won't look as stupid.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs @JimSX

that's exactly why this initiative failed

"the report of my death was an exaggeration"

Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@JimSX @mavdog

Actually, Jim, that's exactly why this initiative failed - because the folks behind it tried to generate fear to give them something to vote *against*.

Had they come up with some kind of plan... something for people to stand FOR... they might have had a chance.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@mavdog @JimSX  

According to the adopted redistricting plan, School Board Seat Eight rules over a district with a voting age population of 95,367. In last week’s election, 756 votes were cast for a turnout of just over eight-tenths of one percent. In District Six, where there are supposed to be 77,778 voting age persons, 2,356 people voted for a turnout of three percent. That pretty much gives you the two poles of the spectrum on recent voter turnout. So 25 percent? You’d have to threaten to set people’s houses on fire if they didn’t vote.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog @JimSX

The Home Rule laws require an *overwhelming* support by the electorate.  Tens of thousands have to sign the original petition, and then way more than a simple majority is required to pass it on the ballot.

Personally, I think that's a good thing because it makes it difficult for anti-establishment freaks to capriciously change what we've worked so hard to build, and for them to game the system through electioneering.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@mavdog @JimSX  

Any serious attempt to use the law will be driven by a desire to supplant the elected school board. But under this POS (piece of shit) law  the elected school board is responsible for coming up with the commission charged with devising the new system.This isn't a balance of power: it's a conflict of interest. As we are about to see, unless Melton pulls something out of his hat, the school board will appoint a commission whose mission will be to blow itself up in public place.

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