By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Fighting fire:On June 5, a long-running lawsuit against the Dallas school district hit a wall. Now the people who filed it may have their backs against one.
The case began March 10, 2000, after the school board voted 5-4 to hire a private company, Edison Schools, to run up to 10 elementary schools in a deal known to many as "that giant sucking sound." (By many, we mean Buzz. Feel free to join us.) That day, school trustee Lois Parrott, former trustee Don Venable, a minister and a parent filed suit in state court arguing that the G.S.S. violated state law because it meant the district would spend more money per pupil in Edison schools than in some others.
Classroom Teachers of Dallas later joined the suit, while Venable dropped out. Edison ended up managing seven schools, and Superintendent Mike Moses has promised close scrutiny of the $50 million contract. Still, DISD has long insisted its deal with Edison is lawful.
District Judge Anne Ashby agreed, ruling that DISD has leeway to enter into contracts with private companies for services.
"I don't think the ruling was fair," says the Rev. L. Charles Stovall, a plaintiff who represented himself in the suit.
His and his fellow plaintiffs' burden may grow heavier. At a hearing on June 25, DISD lawyer Eric Moye will demand legal fees in the range of $100,000 from the losing parties on grounds their suit was frivolous. He says they erred grievously by seeking to overturn in the legal arena a legitimate vote by elected officials, rather than trying to build political support for reversal. "They were disgruntled losers in a political battle," Moye says. "I don't think this was a case where there was a good-faith legal dispute."
The plaintiffs cry that DISD is trying to squelch dissent. "It's vengeful, designed to discourage anyone with legitimate concerns on challenging the district," argues Stovall, who says he doesn't have the money to pay any judgment.
Moye is unmoved. "It's something [the plaintiffs] should have thought about before they brought this meritless lawsuit," he says. "The district is not pleased so much time and energy has been squandered in this matter."
The district isn't pleased about squandering resources on the Edison matter, Eric? Imagine how we poor taxpayers feel.