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In Gutting Learning Centers, the Dallas ISD Clearly Has Learned Nothing in 39 Years

Well, we have now officially turned our back on school desegregation. I'm sure some of you will be thrilled. Personally, I'm sitting here at my computer in the back corner of a darkened house at a quarter to two in the morning, and I feel more like throwing up.

At a little past 1 this morning, led by board member Edwin Flores, the whites and Hispanics on the board (with one important exception) just kicked the entire history and tradition of school desegregation in Dallas right into the great toilet of history. The board voted 5-4 to gut the budgets of the learning centers -- Dallas's answer to forced school busing -- but essentially spare the city's magnet schools, where the reductions will be considerably less severe (and, at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center and William B. Travis Academy/Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted, non-existent).

The magnet schools also were created as part of the resolution of Dallas's 33-year Tasby desegregation suit. They have attracted students from all over the city, including whites. The learning centers -- showcase schools with enhanced budgets and programs -- are in poor neighborhoods and serve almost entirely minority communities.

Flores was caustic and sneering when he told the board that the late Judge Barefoot Sanders didn't really believe in the special learning center schools he helped set up as part of the resolution of the Tasby lawsuit. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, a DISD product himself, told board member Carla Ranger he didn't really know the purpose of the learning centers because he wasn't here during their creation. But from the looks of it, where Hinojosa was living in 1994, they didn't have much of a civil rights movement anyhow.

Both Flores and Hinojosa were dismissive and arrogant in a way I just can't imagine anyone of any ethnicity behaving in this city a mere five years ago. We've really made progress since then, eh?

The meeting took eight hours because the three black board members subjected the staff to a grueling cross-examination on the purported reasons for cutting teaching staffs at the learning centers. The black board members were close to proving something that I will lay out in detail in my column next week -- there was never a reason why this had to be done.

The Hispanic and white board members just want the learning centers gone. The exception was Adam Medrano, elected last night as the new board president, who voted with the three black members against the cuts. Medrano is a scion of an old Dallas family with strong UAW and Democratic Party roots. I don't think you'd ever get an offspring of Pancho Medrano to vote the way Flores and Jerome Garza did last night.

But that's the bigger story, the story beyond the learning centers, beyond even the school district. Flores and Garza are the new Hispanics, more Republican than Democrat, shallow-rooted in local political history, more than happy to do what the white folks don't have the balls for: Kick the blacks in the teeth.

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That's exactly what happened at the end of this meeting. For anybody who has been here as long as I have, it was a really shocking display. I kept looking at the three Anglos on the board -- Leigh Ann Ellis, Nancy Bingham and Jack Lowe -- sitting on their hands, sometimes tsk-tsking when they thought the black people were talking too much but generally enjoying every minute. We're in for a lot more of this.

This was a crushing defeat for black Dallas. And like I say, I know some of our loyal Friends of Unfair Park here will be overjoyed, so let me just ask this question in advance: If you think it's so cool to see black people knocked in the head, why don't you go do it yourself, instead of hiding behind the Hispanics? And for Flores, Garza and Hinojosa, what a way to make a mark in history: destroying an enhanced education program for the city's poorest children.

Maybe next they can get the district to tear out all of its wheelchair ramps.

Carla Ranger is going to challenge the vote legally. Just remember: She tends to win those things.

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