SEEDless: Conventional wisdom says that if something isn't broken, don't fix it. Sadly, conventional wisdom isn't so conventional at Dallas Independent School District headquarters, and a good, working program will soon be broke.

The new DISD budget likely will slash funding for Project SEED, an 18-year-old program that brings top mathematicians to elementary schools to teach algebra, trigonometry, and calculus to inner-city kids as early as third grade.

As the Dallas Observer went to press, Dallas school board members were considering a proposed budget that would reduce Project Seed's funding from $1.7 million to $500,000. The bloodletting, one source tells Buzz, will cut a program that formerly employed more than 40 Ph.D.s teaching 170 classes to one that employs eight instructors to teach 45 classes.

DISD leaders sliced SEED funding at the very last minute, giving the project's supporters little time to rally a defense. Administrators insist their reasons are good. The money will go instead to a four-year program to improve the math curriculum and train teachers.

Good idea, but at SEED's Uptown headquarters, the staff is in shock. The low-paid mathematicians let go will either move to another city with a Project SEED or quickly re-enter the private sector.

Reached Monday, William Tate, assistant superintendent for internal operations, was apologetic--he originally recommended full funding for SEED--but characterized the move as a "hard decision" that came down to "whether to invest in teachers of DISD or a vendor."

The cuts come as DISD struggles to improve lagging math scores for African-American boys. While one of SEED's key selling points was that its teaching methods were particularly well-suited to African-American children, at least one black board member supports the cut, since increased funding for DISD's math plan helps all children. "I'm glad we're looking at a systemic approach that we hope will raise the achievement of all our kids," says trustee Hollis Brashear.

If only the district could find a way to cut money from somewhere else. But where, oh where to cut? It's not as though DISD has a slew of high-priced imported administrators to send packing. Is it?

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams