DISD's Mike Miles Says School Finance Ruling Is a Call for Legislators to Fix a Broken System

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Hasteur
Dallas ISD was one of more than 600 districts that sued the state over its massive budget cuts coupled with unfair allocation of funds and more curriculum requirements.

Last week's ruling by a state judge in Austin reaffirming that Texas' method of financing public schools is unconstitutional gives the Legislature a chance to repair a "resource gap" that's failing a growing population of impoverished children, Dallas school Superintendent Mike Miles says.

On Thursday, Judge John Dietz issued a written ruling confirming an earlier finding that the state doesn't provide enough money or distribute it fairly to districts across the state.

The latest round in Texas' decades-long battle over equity in school finance arrived in 2011 when the state cut more than $5 billion from the education budget. Over 600 school districts sued, saying that while the state cut the budget it was also raised curriculum requirements that caused districts to need more money. The system also disproportionately advantaged wealthier districts with a higher tax revenues. Many urban districts found that they ultimately received less money because of lower property taxes, causing a split between rich and poor districts.

While the current "Robin Hood" plan dictates that wealthier districts share a portion of their tax revenue with poorer districts, many districts claim this isn't enough to supplement state cuts, and residents in wealthier districts are frustrated that their tax money benefits schools outside their districts.

Dallas ISD was one of the districts that sued the state, and Miles praised Dietz's decision. "We have a district where we have a lot of student who come to us who are behind in proficiency, a lot of students whose second language is English, and a lot of students who are challenged by poverty," he says. "It would seem that districts that have those conditions would need more resources than the state is currently providing."

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Midlothian Parents Protest Removal of Hilariously Unconstitutional Plaques

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WFAA via Twitter
"Soli deo gloria" is Latin for "Suck it, atheists."

Midlothian ISD Superintendent Jerome Stewart said Thursday that two overtly Christian plaques attached to elementary schools would remain uncovered for the time being. The plaques, which have adorned the schools for 17 without complaint, are the subject of a June 30 letter to the district from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which wants them removed.

The district, advised by its attorneys that it would lose any lawsuit regarding the plaques, covered them with duct tape and prepared for their being replaced as the new school year began. Wednesday, the district posted a notice on its website that the plaques had been uncovered, but the district was "unsure who uncovered them" and had "no plans to recover them."

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Argyle ISD Arms Its Teachers for Back-To-School Security Initiative

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Renelibrary
The tiny city of Argyle has its own police department and school police chief -- do their teachers need to carry firearms as well?

With around 2,000 students in the district's three campuses, Argyle ISD is a small, quiet district located smack dab in the middle of Denton and Fort Worth, off Interstate 35. And this school year, some teachers at Argyle ISD have a secret: Several of them have a guns hidden away on their bodies while they're busy writing lessons on the classroom whiteboard.

See also: Starting Today, Some Texas Teachers Are Learning to Become Armed School Marshals

For the upcoming school year, Argyle ISD is one of a few districts in North Texas that will be implementing the controversial Protection of Texas Children Act passed by the Legislature in 2013. The bill allows for certain districts to train appointed administrators or teachers to possess firearms in their classrooms in case of emergencies. The move was first suggested as a response to the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and is the brainchild of freshman Representative Jason Villalba.

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More than 17,000 DISD Kids Didn't Show Up for the First Day of School. What Happened?

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Liz
The first day of school is a rite of passage for the kids who actually make it to the first day.

Every year districts typically fall short of the number of kids expected on the first day. Between personal issues and confusion or simple failure to meet registration deadlines, it's an annual problem most districts have to combat. Approximately 17,448 kids did not show up Monday for the first day of school in Dallas, and 161,000 kids were expected. Last year, 15,588 kids did not show up out of an expected 159,000. That's nearly 11 percent of Dallas kids who did not show up for the first day of school on Monday, compared with 9.8 percent of kids did not show up for the first day last year.

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New AP U.S. History Test Infuriates Texas State Board of Ed Members

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Wikimedia
The textbook cover for an American history class, after SBOE members have had their say.

America is the best place ever. Everyone knows that except, it seems, our educators. The College Board is rolling out new guidelines this year for the Advanced Placement U.S. history exams that has some Texas School Board members crying foul. Ken Mercer, noted conservative school board member, says the new test reeks of anti-Americanism.

For starters, the test downplays American exceptionalism and emphasizes more complicated social issues -- for example, Japanese internment during World War II, the Civil Rights Act or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The College Board claims it's simply trying to give students a more well-rounded view of American history.

But to some state board members, the test ignores how great America is in favor of a discussion of its flaws. "Those great generals in the Civil War, crushing Germany in World War II, that's all that really stands out to me," Mercer told Vice, recalling his own youthful days in history class. Now, he claims that "there's nothing in there about our military and all those victories."

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New Grading Policy Makes It Really, Really Hard for Denton ISD Students to Fail

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amboo who?
A Denton ISD student's future report card in life. No late work accepted.

Denton ISD's new grading policy rolls out today with the first day of school, to the delight of middle and high school students and the chagrin of their teachers. The district-wide policy veritably ensures that Denton students have to work harder to fail than to pass their classes. Their future college professors thank the district in advance.

The radical new policy ensures that procastinators -- i.e. every student ever -- do not receive zeros or incompletes for late assignments. Rather, teachers must accept the students' work through the end of the grading cycle. Students also have the right to retake tests, and the higher grade will be used as the final grade.

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TWU's On-Campus Housing Is So Overcrowded Students Have to Live at Holiday Inn

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Emily Mathis
Ever wish you had maid service for your freshman dorm? Yeah, these kids might actually get that.
This year marks the third year in a row that Texas Woman's University in Denton will contract with a local Holiday Inn to provide housing for students. More than 100 students will be assigned to the off campus hotel that has been haphazardly labeled as campus housing.

"Students who have not completed 60 credit hours are required to live on campus," says TWU spokesperson Amanda Simpson. "So that's considered most freshman and sophomores. So basically there are more students than beds. Some students are in triple rooms. There are approximately 164 students that have been assigned to overflow housing, 114 of which are assigned to the Holiday Inn."

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How Dallas' Schools Are Preparing for the Surge of Kids from Central America

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Ken Hammond
School districts across the state are scrambling to accommodate an expected 25,000 additional students this school year, many of whom arrived unaccompanied from Central America.
Exactly one year ago, Dallas ISD's Student Intake Center began taking responsibility for every immigrant student coming into the district. The Center focuses on processing the kids who have never attended American schools before, by checking immunization records and other documents, and evaluating their level of education. The Center is accommodating a quickly growing number of kids entering the school district.

"In the 2013 to 2014 school year, by around April we were serving about 639 kids at the Center," says DISD spokesman André Riley, who was careful to point out that the Center did not distinguish which kids were unaccompanied minors, only noting which students were new to the United States. "In 2012 to 2013, there were 433 kids. 2011 to 2012, 253 kids. So it's been going up."

It's a common theme in school districts across the state.

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Parents Claim HEB School Officials Railroaded Special-Needs Kid So They Could Expel Him

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Kelvinsong
Smartphones in schools have hidden dangers, like getting in trouble for photographing your buddy on the toilet.
From the sound of it, at least as his parents tell it, Charles and Kristie Cripps' son was a pretty normal kid. He had some behavioral issues, largely stemming from ADHD, like insulting his classmates' penis sizes and careening around his school in the manner typical of adolescent boys.

Because of these issues, the Cripps' son was provided special education services, including a service called "social skills training," intended to teach him the differences between acceptable and unacceptable social behaviors. But the training didn't take, the boy's parents say, and their son's behavior continued to deteriorate. Tensions grew between the boy's school, his special education advocate and his mother to the point that, according a federal lawsuit filed by the Cripps against the Hurst Euless Bedford Independent School District, school officials conspired to catch him in behavior that would lead to a felony charge -- and allow his expulsion from the district.

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Libros Libres Combats Inadvertent Economic Segregation of National Little Free Libraries

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John Phelan
A very pretty, very expensive Little Free Library. Great idea, limited audience.

The Little Free Library project has established a national reputation for encouraging local literacy among kids. The Wisconsin-based group was founded in 2009 and encourages neighborhoods to set up small boxes of books for kids to read and return. The idea of the Little Free Library project is that people could set a cardboard box full of books in their front yards at no cost to themselves. It's an entirely community run effort and it relies on the honor system, telling borrowers to "take a book, leave a book."

Yet in poorer neighborhoods where kids often struggle to find books in the home, residents are less likely to slap a box of books in their front yard (and they're even less likelier to actually purchase one of the Little Free Library custom made book containers, which can run upward of $1,000).

In classic, albeit inadvertent, economic segregation, most of the Little Free Libraries in Dallas consequently ended up in more affluent suburb areas -- where they were much less needed. It's something Dallas hoped to combat this summer by launching its own Little Free Library chapter, Libros Libres.

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