As he promised he would to the Observer’s Jim Schutze a couple of weeks ago, Dallas state Senator Don Huffines filed a bill Tuesday afternoon to get rid of Dallas County Schools, the school district that doesn’t operate any schools.
Dallas County Schools, for the uninitiated or confused, runs the buses for about two-thirds of Dallas County’s school kids. It doesn’t operate any schools, but it gets property tax dollars from Dallas County residents all the same. Its existence, Huffines told Schutze is a remnant of a time when school’s were run by county-wide rather than city-wide districts. The time for entities like DPS, Huffines reiterated Tuesday, has come and gone.
“Dallas County Schools is dangerous, unreliable and fiscally reckless. This rogue bureaucracy is dangerous for students and a rip-off for taxpayers,” Huffines said at a capitol press conference, pointing to the 480 traffic tickets the agency has piled up since January 2014, according to a KXAS investigation. “Students and parents deserve better than DCS. When a child boards a school bus, parents should be able to trust that he or she will arrive at school safely and on time. This is a promise that DCS has broken repeatedly, and that’s unacceptable.”
Huffines wants Dallas County school districts, Dallas ISD included, that currently contract with DPS for bus services to find a new provider before the 2018-2019 school year. Taxpayer money shouldn’t be in the hands of an agency that has recently been accused of mismanaging $45 million, Huffines said.
“I don't know if it's ignorance or incompetence or intentionally misleading,” Huffines said of DPS Superintendent Rick Sorrells’ response to fiscal mismanagement allegations. “They are in crisis mode.”
Later, at a competing press conference, Sorrells said that the $45 million was still there, and that the districts financial problems are really just budgeting issues.
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“There is no money lost. There is a budget issue and the budget is inflated,” Sorrells said. “We’ll be fine. We’ll be moving forward.”
The district has a new financial adviser coming in next week to help restructure its debt, Sorrells said, without noting the the districts bond rating has recently been downgraded by Moody’s to the ratings house’s lowest investment grade, Baa3.
Larry Duncan, DPS’ school board president, pounced on this week’s viral video, in which Huffines berates a group of school children and parents when they asked him about school vouchers.
“Sen. Huffines this morning proposed a bill to do away with Dallas County Schools. Yesterday he showed his true agenda when he disparaged PTA parents and students who were just advocating for public education,” Duncan said. “The bottom line on this bill is to do away, to suck out, 19 and a half million dollars of our ad valorem tax from the public schools.”