Senator Florence Shapiro Urges Mayor Tom Leppert To Explain DISD Takeover, Says District Needs More Time

While Mayor Tom Leppert continues to dodge questions about his plans to take over the Dallas Independent School District, there's been no shortage of politicos willing to offer their thoughts on the topic. Since the news broke one week ago today, we'd been attempting to get a hold of Senator Florence Shapiro -- as she is the go-to gal for all things education in the state as the chair of the Senate Education Committee.

We tracked down the prominent Republican (and Observer editor Mark Donald's sister -- so much for preferential treatment) at Thursday night's annual Reagan Day Dinner, where she spoke with us shortly before the mayor made an appearance at the fund-raiser following his town hall shindig at Harold Wendell Lang Middle School. Shapiro said she admires Leppert because he "has taken education to heart" by including it in his campaign platform and donating his mayoral salary to scholarships, but it's time for the mayor to explain his plans for DISD.

"The concept or the idea that he has, I think needs to be vetted. It needs to be aired. It needs to be talked about," she told Unfair Park. "I think the Dallas Independent School District needs more time, quite frankly."

Shapiro said she's heard conversations in the last couple months about his plans, but not from anyone "in the know." Leppert never came to her, but she has since spoken with him about it. She said she doesn't feel slighted that Leppert didn't discuss the issue with her and praised him for putting a spotlight on education. "He really works hard to try to help the school system."

Shapiro stressed that it's likely too late in the session to get such legislation approved granting Leppert power over DISD. "We'll see where it goes from here," she said.

We also asked the senator about legislation that would grant 12 casinos in Texas (with one possibly in downtown Dallas). She said this is the first time she's seen the issue "take wings."

"Oh, that's going to be very interesting. I think there's a lot more talk this session than there ever was before."

What about new House Speaker Joe Straus's ties to the gambling industry?

"He's a very honest and very noble person," Shapiro said. "I don't think he's going to do anything to get involved in that issue. He recognized the conflict of interest, and I trust his judgment."

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Sam Merten
Contact: Sam Merten